Breathing is the one necessity of life that we don’t really need to think about. When we breathe in, oxygen is taken to all of our cells in the body and breathing out removes the waste product carbon dioxide.
Due to modern day life, most of us don’t use the full capacity of our lungs. This can affect the oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange and contribute to many factors, such as, anxiety and fatigue.
Practising controlled breathing in our day can promote feelings of calm and relaxation. If we practice them in the morning, it can set us up for the day ahead. Deep breathing floods our body and mind with oxygen, helping it to function at its best.
Simple breathing exercises can make a big difference if you make them part of your regular routine.
Have a look at the 3 breathing techniques below:
1. The ‘Relaxing Breath’
4-7-8 (also known as the ‘Relaxing Breath’)
- Completely exhale
- Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
- Hold for 7 seconds
- Breath out through your mouth for 8 seconds. (You can try and make a whooshing sound by touching the top of your mouth with your tongue whilst breathing out)
Repeat this 4 times in total. This aims to reduce anxiety by bringing the body into a deep state of relaxation and filling the body with oxygen. Practising this technique makes it more powerful, especially if you do this routine twice a day or use in a stressful situation.
2. ‘Deep Breathing’
- Breathe in deeply and fill your tummy (diaphragm) fully. This makes your abdominal muscles flexible, filling your lungs with oxygen.
- Breathe fully out through your nose
- Put one hand on your chest and one on your tummy
- The hand on your tummy should move more than the hand on the chest
- Do this 3 times in a row
Repeat this throughout the day when needed. This can be done before entering a meeting or in a stressful situation.
3. ‘Breath Counting’
- As you deeply inhale count number 1
- Exhale by completely emptying your lungs
- Deeply inhale and count 2
- Continue this exercise and count up to 5 on your inhale
Only counting to 5 helps us to keep our thoughts in the present moment without wandering off up to 10 or further without thinking about it.
Breath Counting allows us to focus on nothing else. This is also a form of Mindfulness.
Please note, all of the deep breathing exercises above may cause you to feel lightheaded at first.
Dr Weil (2016) Breathing Techniques. Available at: https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/stress-anxiety/breathing–three-exercises/
Kaushik RM, et al (2006) Effects of mental relaxation and slow breathing in essential hypertension. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16765850