Relax - Why breathing exercises work
We're often told to take a deep breath or two if we’re feeling stressed, angry or anxious but does it work? Clients report back to me that, yes, it does. But how can such a simple thing help you to deal with such strong emotions?
Scientific benefits of calm breathing
The tradition of taking time out for deep breathing goes back a long way - it’s part of meditation, mindfulness, yoga and many other disciplines designed to help keep you calm and feeling good. But science is now backing up the tradition with a few facts which give a bit of confidence to those who might previously have dismissed the whole thing as 'a bit of New Age nonsense'.
David DiSalvo, in Forbes Magazine, reports that slow, steady breathing
- calms your brain and influences your emotional state
- helps to regulate your blood pressure
- taps into the brain's emotional control areas
- influences your memory
- calms the parasympathetic nervous system, which has the side effect of boosting the immune system
Breathing for relaxation
- Put one hand on your chest, about a hand's width down from your collarbone.
- Put the other hand on your tummy, immediately below your ribs
- Breathe slowly and deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth, and notice which hand moves the most
- The most effective calm breathing uses the diaphragm and not the chest muscles - if you’re doing this the bottom hand will move the most
- If that's the case, continue that calm breathing for another two minutes
- If the top hand is moving most, imagine pushing the breathe down into your body until the bottom hand moves the most
- Continue this, starting with a minute and gradually working up to two minutes
You can do this exercise sitting or laying down on your back, but you might find laying down is easier if you’re new to breathing techniques. And after a while you'll find that you won’t need your hands to guide you and can switch easily into this breathing pattern wherever you are, feeling calmer and more relaxed.
You can also
- download my free MP3 relaxation audio
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter on these blogs: Rachel Waller.