[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]I[/su_dropcap]nhale. Exhale.
Each breath is an automatic function of the body. Our breathing rate, however, fluctuates as we become stressed, relaxed, excited and so on. When we feel stressed, our breathing pattern is short and shallow, which can cause hyperventilation. This can exacerbate the physical symptoms of stress and prolong feelings of anxiety.
However, we have the power to control our breathing and deliberately change our breathing rate. By doing so, we can better manage our stress, boost our immune system and heighten alertness.
For centuries, scientists have studied how controlled breathing can promote healing. Dr. Richard Brown, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, says that controlled breathing “can change the response of the body’s autonomic nervous system, which controls unconscious processes such as heart rate and digestion as well as the body’s stress response.”
When we consciously change the way we breathe, a signal is sent to our brain to adjust the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system. This can slow our heart rate and digestion, which encourages feelings of calm and relaxation. Controlled breathing also sends a signal to the sympathetic branch of the nervous system, which is responsible for releasing stress hormones like cortisol.
Dr. Brown further explains that taking slow and steady breaths activates the parasympathetic response, while short, shallow breaths activate the sympathetic response. Thus, practicing controlled breathing can calm our minds and reduce the negative effects of stress.
There are a variety of ways one can practice controlled breathing, but the practice usually contains the following three parts: (1) inhaling deeply through the nose for five seconds, making sure the abdomen expands, (2) holding the breath for a second or two, and (3) exhaling completely through the mouth for a second longer than the inhalation.
Additionally, there are many meditation practices that focus on breathing to promote feelings of calm. There are many online guides to help you get started with meditation, or classes you can take at recharj. Whichever method you choose, be sure to incorporate controlled breathing into your daily life to relax your body and calm your mind.