Breathing is something we don’t really think about often because… well, we don’t usually have to! Our autonomic, or subconscious, nervous system takes care of that for us (along with our heart beat, digestion, and other body functions that keep us alive). However, unlike the other autonomic functions, breathing is the only one we can actually control.
Without concentrating on our breath, most of us breathe shallowly, commonly referred to as chest breathing. However, research has shown that deep breathing, often called diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing, can have a number of health benefits, including:
- Decreased stress and anxiety
- Improved digestion
- Enhanced relaxation
- Lower heart rate
- Lower blood pressure
- Increased immunity
- Enhanced detoxification
Luckily, there are a number of simple techniques you can practice to start enjoying the benefits of deep breathing today.
Take one minute to focus on your breathing. Inhale slowly and deeply enough to expand your belly and make an effort to empty your lungs completely on your exhale.
You can also try one of these two quick and easy techniques:
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale slowly through your nose as you feel your belly expand (the hand over your belly should rise). Try to keep your chest from rising if possible (the hand over your chest should stay still). Exhale slowly through your mouth. Do this for a few minutes each day or whenever you’re feeling stressed.
For the 4-7-8 method you’ll begin by exhaling all the air out of your lungs through your mouth. Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, right behind your top front teeth. Inhale through your nose for a count of four; hold your breath for a count of seven; then exhale through pursed lips (around your tongue) for a count of eight. Repeat three times.
Notice how relaxed you feel after just a few minutes of deep breathing! For extra credit (we see you, straight A’s), schedule a few minutes each day to practice deep breathing. You’ll be a (healthier, more relaxed) pro in no time!