Sourced from “Breathing for Relaxation” (17:19) – Shannon Jones Anstead, Ed.S.
Diaphragmatic or abdominal breathing is the easiest way to produce a relaxation response and allows the respiratory system to function properly.
Improper breathing can often contribute to feelings of anxiety, panic, or fatigue and can increase muscular tension, leading to headaches. Practicing deep breathing allows the mind and body to slow down and relax.
BREATHING TIP: 6 breaths per minute is ideal for practice. Inhale for 5 seconds. Exhale for 5 seconds.
Breathing Technique: If you are breathing specifically to relax or calm yourself it is important to breathe in through your nose, and out very slowly through your mouth.
Purse your lips and breathe out as though blowing through a straw. This will allow you to prolong your exhalation.
Lie on the floor and place one hand on the center of your chest and the other on your abdomen, right at the waistline. When you breathe in, notice whether your abdomen expands – if it does, you are breathing from your diaphragm. If your belly doesn’t move or moves less than your chest, you are breathing from your chest.
To shift from chest to abdominal breathing, make one or two full exhalations that push out the air from the bottom of your lungs – this creates a vacuum that will pull in a deep, diaphragmatic breath on your next inhalation.
Breathing more slowly, gently and deeply helps to calm and relax and can also reduce tension and anxiety and improve concentration and memory. Shallow and fast breathing can contribute to anxiety, muscular tension, panic attacks, headaches, and fatigue. By practicing slow, deep breathing, your mind will calm down and your body will relax.
Diaphragmatic, or, abdominal breathing is one of the easiest ways to produce a relaxation response. Practice 10 or more minutes to learn the proper technique for deep relaxation. helping to reduce muscle tension and anxiety. Throughout the day, frequently take a few slow, deep breaths or do a couple of minutes of diaphragmatic breathing, especially when feeling stressed.
Sympathetic Breathing Meditation Technique
This guided meditation is from http://www.quietmindcafe.com and is one part of a three-part relaxation and stress management system. Use this sympathetic breathing guided meditation for profound relaxation and stress relief.
This breathing technique calms and balances the autonomic nervous system, which is your fight or flight response. This breathing technique will boost your immune system and suppress cortisol which is a hormone responsible for rapid aging.
Do you believe in good and bad forces in life? Well, I’m sure you do, it’s obvious that it exists
But what I’m talking about is the concept of “yin and yang” where there’s light and dark – good and bad to everything. In the same regard, I believe that there also exists good stress and bad stress. As famous wet oil painter Bob Ross once said “You can’t have the light without the dark. You need the light areas to make the dark areas show. Just like in life.”
Having said that, I want to go through the elements of stress briefly before we talk about anything else. For starters, let’s discuss the good kind of stress, and then work our way to the other kind.
When you’re thrust into a situation that challenges your potential and your capabilities, it brings on a certain element of stress. Whether it’s trying something you’ve never done before, competing in a contest, starting a new business or venture, or anything else – what you’re having is an experience with the GOOD kind of stress.
These challenges are what bring your life a constant state of change, in terms of the up and down movement in emotion. Without these sorts of happenings, your life would, arguably, become far less predictable and potentially less exciting. While it may be comfortable to remain in a zone of “knowing”, you also deny yourself the opportunity to explore your full potential as a person. Sometimes all it takes is a little bit of encouragement or a fresh perspective to inspire you to step out of your comfort zone.
Instead of approaching these situations as “fearful”, approach them with a heightened sense of awareness. Now, bear with me here. You want to view situations, people, and everything as an observational body. By this, I mean, rather than placing judgment or jumping to a “side”, you simply observe. Practicing this relaxed state of mind will allow your environment (and the people within it) will become more supportive and, of course, relaxed.
I believe that a lot of us are equipped with an instinct to form excuses and reasons as to why we shouldn’t tackle a challenge, or make a significant (or small) change. Meanwhile, the truth is that sometimes your rational mind does have a point.
At the same time, you should be consciously aware of your comfort zone and how rooted you become with it. The more you immerse yourself within it, the harder it can be to get out.
Think about it this way: sometimes you might be comfortable, and then all of a sudden an opportunity comes along.
Your first instinct may push you to decline the opportunity, whatever it may be, and remain in a state of constant knowing and comfort. Taking an intelligent “risk” when the timing is right can end up transforming your life from ordinary to far more fulfilling.
Taking a step forward, or risk can be a positive movement towards growing as a person and also coping with the other kind of stress – the bad kind. Now, if you’re going through this course, then I’m sure that may be why you’re here. Dealing with the bad stress, the kind you could definitely do without in your life.
I’m not going to bore you or waste your time by listing off reasons or situations that can generate bad stress. Mainly because I’m certain you KNOW what stresses you out and creates that feeling of overwhelm in your life. Just thinking about the topics and things that are weighing over you can cause your mind to escalate the situation. This, in turn, makes coming up with a solution AND dealing with the stress effectively far more difficult.
Now that I’ve given you this overview of good and bad stress, let’s just dive right into the topic of breathing to relieve the stress.
The first thing I want you to do is to breathe. Yes, that’s all you need to do: breathe.
But hold on, stop your mind from wandering and focus only on one thing which is the process of breathing and the breaths themselves. Take notice to the breath coming in through your nose, filling your diaphragm and chest, and then release the breath slowly out of your mouth. When you exhale the air, try to release the unpleasant thoughts that are troubling you. You can’t continue to think about the issue between breaths. The idea here is to clear your mind.
When you breathe in again, (yes, you have to repeat the process several times), paint the picture of positive energy coming in through your nose. Imagine that pure positive energy, drifting out of you, upon exhale, and improving your environment. Diffusing the stress around everything that it comes in contact with.
Similar to just about every other aspect of life, in order to reap the benefits of really anything, you need to fully commit whole-heartedly. As cliché as it may be to say, one of the strongest methods for manifesting success (which is subjective to every person, by the way), is to believe. Visualize the success and your goals. Block out the negativity and stress spawning thoughts from invading.
As a matter of fact, children are a prime example of how powerful the concepts of imagination and inspiration can be to self-righteousness. They often use their imagination in such ways that it creates life and the world around them where the stresses of the outside and the real world don’t affect them. They remain entertained by this powerful environment all build from imagination and freedom of the mind.
Alright, alright, I know you’re probably scoffing at this point and saying how as we get older, we seem to lose that imagination. Not to mention, we take on a multitude of different responsibilities and even burdens. As adults, we have to work, cook, clean, care for ourselves and often others, manage bills, and have a personal life too.
While this may be true, that doesn’t dismiss the fact that you, just like any child, can use your imagination and inspiration to better impact your life. Not surprisingly, many self-help guides, books, and so on often refer to the term “visualize” when describing these situations and this process.
In reality, both visualizing and imagining, to me, are just one and the same. They don’t have to be boring, they can and SHOULD be fun. Visualizing the goals, your successes, and happiness, will, in turn, help you to RELEASE the bad kind of stress from your life.
Without getting off track, let’s shift focus on relieving BAD stress. Remember, we’re practicing breathing techniques.
Once you’re at the point where your body is being filled with pure positive energy (air), you want to visualize (or imagine) that this energy is transforming every cell throughout your body. Think of it like an “internal massage” of sorts, where your organs and everything will be touched and refreshed with a renewed energy.
I know that in a way it does sound crazy and farfetched, but just try to experience this sensation when you practice breathing in this way. Recognize this energy, your positive and creative energy, all full of color and life, and let it “wash” through your body internally and invigorate your mind.
I understand that this whole “imagining” or “visualizing” process may not be as easy for some as it is for others. This often comes from the inability to take life “less seriously”. Sometimes it seems as though the more serious you take life, the more serious of occurrences and situations will be thrown your way.
You may even watch other people laughing, enjoying their life, and being just all around happy with the way things are going. In this process, you may eventually become resentful and envious. This can only feed further into the negative energy and stress that exists in your life.
What needs to happen, is you need to come to a point where you breathe easy (literally) and realize that life doesn’t have to always be so serious.
It’s fine to let loose, enjoy things, and be silly every now and again. Do things that make you smile, take opportunities and go out of your comfort zone. Because the reality is that these very same people you see loving life, are doing this exact same thing. For all you know, they may be stressed beyond belief and stepping out of their comfort zone regularly because they know it inspires positivity and happiness in their life.
Since we’ve gone over how to think and focus your mind and thoughts while you breathe, in order to both relieve stress and center your mind, I think it’s important to also touch on how breathing impacts our body and health. Beyond just breathing techniques, there’s a lot that breathing plays into the mind, aside from the fact that we need it to survive.
To summarize, this is what happens when you have poor breathing habits (yes, that’s actually a thing, believe it or not).
- You lose out on your most important source of energy. You get hungrier, especially for junk food and sweets.
- Your body suffers from a lack of efficient oxygen, which negatively affects your “free radicals” and can increase your chances of long-term illnesses.
- You feel more stressed, which reduces your body’s ability to fight off illness.
- Your body’s lymphatic system functions badly, so it can’t eliminate toxins as efficiently as it should.
- Even your thinking is impaired. So, now you’re probably scratching your head and saying “how should I breathe?”
Well, there’s plenty of breathing exercises that you can make use of. Some are designed to cleanse your body; some to reduce your stress; and so on. But before looking at exercises, let’s first just take a brief look at your breathing habits.
Check Your Breathing
The best way to check your breathing is honestly to stand in front of a mirror and take a deep breath in. Notice what happens. In particular, I want you to look at all of these things:
- What happened to your shoulders (did they rise or stay roughly still)?
- What happened to your chest (did it rise high or stay roughly still)?
- What happened to your stomach (did it go in, stay roughly still or expand)?
From there, here’s what you should do next…
- Stand in front of a mirror.
- First, breathe out — empty your lungs.
- Take in a deep breath, and notice what happens to your shoulders, chest, and stomach.
- Again, empty your lungs and again notice what happens to your shoulders, chest, and stomach.
- Repeat this as many times as you need to notice what’s happening.
Correct Your Breathing
If you’ve ever watched a baby sleeping on its back, you may have noticed the correct way to breathe. For instance, when breathing in, the baby’s stomach rises (expands). When breathing out (exhaling), its stomach goes in. Its shoulders and chest don’t move, or if they do move, it’s hardly at all.
This is exactly what your aim should be when practicing breathing and trying to correct your breathing overall. Here’s a short checklist for what you should notice in the mirror when you breathe in deeply.
Right vs Wrong
- Your shoulders stay level
- Your shoulders lift up
- Your chest rises only a little
- You use your chest to store all the air
- Your stomach expands
Your stomach goes in
- Breathing relaxes you
Breathing in tenses you
A Habit to Carry With You For Life
This may take a while at first, but I promise if you stick to it, it’s going to become a healthy and beneficial habit to practice. If you’ve already adopted this habit, then good! If not, for your own peace of mind, I strongly encourage you to adjust the way you’re breathing.
Remind yourself about the way you breathe, every time you…
- Walkthrough a doorway
- Lie down to go to sleep
- Wake up in the morning
- Get into a car, bus or train
- Get out of a car, bus or train
Finally, the part you’ve been really building up for. There’s no shortage of breathing exercises in existence today, especially with the internet. However, I want to share with you three very simple but highly beneficial breathing exercises that anybody can make use of in their life.
Here’s something that will set you up for the day. It’s a great habit to get into first thing in the morning. A lot of people, after mastering it, even find it rather addictive – yes, more so than even coffee. If possible, do this in a clean area — away from traffic fumes, or anything else, and with plenty of ventilation.
To start, remember how you should breathe (from earlier). Breathe out.
- Breathe in slowly and as deep as you can, to a count of about four seconds.
- Hold your breath for 12–16 seconds (less, if it feels uncomfortable).
- Breathe out slowly, emptying your lungs as much as possible, for a count of about eight seconds.
Repeat these steps several times. You may feel slightly light-headed. As someone once told me, “That’s your brain saying, Thank you!” I find this such a lovely feeling, that sometimes I’ll start to wander around the garden, breathing away, realizing after about five minutes that I’m still doing this exercise!
Although this has a fiery and abrasive name, it’s actually a stimulating quick stress relief trick. Do this whenever you have to keep going, but feel, “It’s getting too much for me!”
- Inhale through the nose.
- Hold for a moment.
- Breathe out in short, sharp bursts: fuo-fuo-fuo-fuo…
- Do this six times or so.
Feeling overly anxious? Here’s an excellent breathing exercise you can practice.
- To start, sit comfortably in front of a table. Elbows on the table, palms over eyes, eyes closed.
- Imagine (visualize) your palms lighting up brightly.
- Imagine this light flowing down through your arms…
- Back up to your shoulders…
- To your chest…
- Down to your solar plexus. Light up your solar plexus strongly.
- Beam the light backward to light up your spine. Let the light flow down to strongly light up your coccyx (your tailbone).
- Take notice of your breathing.
Remain like that, noticing your breathing, for as long as you’d like.
Now, I know that this brief course was to cover breathing, but the mindset and approach behind it are just as important as the process of breathing itself. Practice the art of “breathing relief” is truly a blessing in a lot of ways.
What I strongly encourage you to do is realize that bad things are going to happen in life and that you can’t avoid them, to an extent. Stressful situations are going to rear their ugly head and you’re going to have to deal with them face first.
With breathing in mind, always take a few deep breaths before you react to any situation, especially those that are stressful to you. The situation’s you may be faced with will definitely become infinitely more management
if you allow your mind and imagination to take you to a positive place.
When you go out in public, be conscious of how you look to others. Present a positive appearance and smile at others. I know it seems wild but the more you embrace the unexpectedness of life, the better your life will become. Less stress will bother you and impact your life in a negative way.
Just as if you were to approach an angry person out in public, maybe on the street and you looked them straight in the eyes with a genuine smile on your face. Look at the undesirable situation with the same positive energy that you’re working so diligently to submerge your life with.
Nearly 9 times out of 10, that hostile person will be far less agitated, and the difficult situation will be, as a result, less daunting.
Wrapping things up, I want to thank you for taking the time to go through this short course and I truly hope you’ve taken a thing or two away from it.
Heading off from this, I’d like to encourage you to take some time to practice breathing and visualizing positive scenarios in your life. Prepare yourself for the future, whether it’s stressful or comfortable, and you will find that you’re able to manage situations far better.