Becoming more aware of your breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress and overcome other negative emotions that can impact your health. Breathing is something we do every minute of the day from the moment we’re born, but most people take shallow, short breaths that can take a toll on the body.
Ironically, babies are better at taking deep, diaphragmatic breaths that cause the stomach to rise and fall with each breath. But environmental and societal pressures cause people to breathe more shallow as they age.
A more conscious, thoughtful approach to breathing can bring immense benefits. Deep breathing improves oxygen delivery and detoxification. It helps to lower blood pressure, relieves stress, and even releases feel-good endorphins.
Benefits of Breathing Exercises
People who regularly practice deep breathing exercises find themselves more aware of their surroundings and better able to appreciate life in the moment. This minimizes perceived stressors and relieves muscle tension. Proper breathing can even increase energy by delivering more oxygen to the cells.
Luckily, all it takes is a little practice to enjoy these benefits. The following five breathing techniques may just help you overcome anxiousness, depression, addiction, and more.
The most basic of all breathing techniques, this exercise is a great introduction to breathing to relax or relieve stress. Here’s how to start belly breathing:
- Lay down or sit in a comfortable position.
- Put your hand on your stomach, just below the ribs.
- Breathe deeply through your nose, allowing your hand to rise up as you breathe.
- Breathe out through your mouth, as if you are whistling.
- Feel your hand go down as you breathe out.
- Repeat several times, taking your time with each breath.
The 4-7-8 Exercise
This is an extremely simple exercise that many people enjoy as a way to get to sleep at night. If you suffer from anxiousness or find your mind reeling as you lay in bed, this breathing technique can help to calm and relax your mental state. Here’s how it’s done:
- Sit back in a straight position or lay down.
- Place your tongue behind your upper front teeth or purse your lips slightly.
- Exhale through your mouth.
- Inhale through your nose and count to four in your mind.
- Hold your breath and count to seven.
- Exhale for a count of eight.
- Repeat the cycle three more times.
Awareness of your breath is an excellent form of meditation. Daily meditation can bring greater awareness of life’s beauty, reduce stress, and help you to be less reactive and impulsive. This can in turn help with overcoming addiction or harmful behaviors. Follow these steps to perform the technique:
- Sit in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Exhale and count “one.”
- Inhale, then exhale again and count “two.”
- Repeat the cycle counting up to five.
- Start the cycle over when you get to five, and continue to do the practice for up to 10 minutes.
This breathing technique takes great focus. If you find yourself counting higher than five, you’ll realize you’ve lost focus and will need to do better to keep your attention on your counting.
Practice with Patience
If you’re struggling with stress, anxiety, depression, or looking for ways to overcome addiction, give these breathing exercises a try. Note how you feel after you practice the techniques. Practice patience as you try these techniques—it can take many tries to get it right and really experience the benefits.