Shallow breathing inhibits the healthful benefits of our respiratory system and can create feelings of stress and anxiety. Here is why:
· Our bodies have the built in ability to breathe, and they do this for us without us ever having to think about it. However, simply by focusing our attention on our breath we can direct it, and create positive physical and emotional change. Shallow or unconscious breathing keeps us from experiencing the fullness of the health benefits that our respiratory systems are designed for.
· Each cell in our body relies on oxygen from our inhalation to fuel it, and, as our cells produce carbon dioxide as waste, our bodies rely on exhalation to expel this waste. Our brains alone require 20 percent of our oxygen supply to function. So when we engage in shallow breathing, we limit oxygen flow to our brains and can experience symptoms like anxiety, poor concentration, and low mood and energy.
· When we become conscious of and work to slow down and deepen our breath, we slow our heart rate. This helps us calm the systems of our bodies that get activated in a fight or flight response during times of stress. Conscious breathing allows us to focus on our bodies in the moment, and get outside of our own thoughts, which reduces anxiety. We don’t have to go anywhere to calm our minds and bodies. Just to our next breath.
Often, when we focus on breathing we hear people say “take in a deep breath,” but we don’t focus as much on the exhale. However, exhaling is where the good stuff happens. When you are feeling stressed, and on the go, a simple and effective tool is to focus on lengthening your exhale to the count of seven. Elongating your exhale will naturally require you to draw a deeper inhale on your next breath, instantly calm your mind and body, and bring you into the moment.
When you want to create the space for a more mindful and conscious experience of breathing, here is a step by step guide. This can be used in the morning to start your day, in the evening to wind down before bed, or any time throughout your day to bring yourself back to your body and the moment:
· Get comfortable either laying on your back or sitting in a chair
· Place your hands on your abdomen, one hand on your sternum and the other below on your belly
· Close your eyes and begin to slowly and gently inhale through your nose feeling the air expanding through your chest, back, and belly – feeling one hand than the other move as your belly rises
· At the top of your breath, focus on slowly, gently, and evenly beginning your exhale through your mouth, extending your exhale (without force) a count or two longer than your inhale
· Repeat as many times as feels comfortable. Namaste.
Tiffany Louise is a licensed Clinical Social Worker and noted life coach who specializes in behavioral health. Her holistic approach to coaching is grounded in her years of experience utilizing cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing interventions. She has facilitated in-demand workshops, lectures, and groups in some of the leading addiction treatment centers in the country. Now, she brings that insight to the forefront through her coaching practice and as a contributor to Lean for Life by Lindora Clinic. Tiffany teaches people how to shift their thoughts, feelings, and actions, creating more health, joy, and fulfillment in their lives.