Modern day life is rife with stress and anxieties. Constant worries about your career and family problems can have an adverse effect on your health and mental well-being. Nowadays, more and more people are turning towards medication for relief from stress and anxiety. However, resorting to pills is not the ideal solution. Too much reliance on medication can also have a negative impact on your health in the long run.
Today, we are going to tell you about some breathing exercises that can help you cope with everyday stress and anxiety. These exercises are easy to learn and can be performed within the comfort of your own house. Though, we would recommend that you try to go to a nearby park or meditation center, as nothing helps anxiety as much as breathing fresh air in peaceful surroundings.
Deep breathing is also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing and abdominal breathing. This is so, because the diaphragm and belly play a crucial role in the process of respiration. The diaphragm is a muscle at the base of your thorax or chest that separates it from the abdominal cavity. As the diaphragm contracts; the chest cavity expands and the lungs are filled with air. This is the process of inhalation. When you exhale, the diaphragm expands; the thoracic activity contracts and the lungs expel air. Therefore, deep breathing can strengthen your lungs, and reduce your stress levels.
Steps and Procedure
- Find your Ideal spot- It simply has to be a quiet place where you will not be interrupted.
- Assume the Correct Posture- You can either lie down or sit upright. You have to keep your back straight in either position.
- Position your Hands- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen, respectively. Doing this will help you establish a steady rhythm while breathing.
- Take a Regular Breath- Feel how your body expands.
- Take a Deep Breath via your Nose- Note how the expansion of your body is different now. Your belly should swell more than your chest. This will tell you whether or not you are breathing deeply enough to draw air to the base of your lungs.
- Hold your Breath- You have to hold in your breath for a few moments or till you count to 4.
- Exhale slowly- through your mouth, you will feel your abdomen returning to its original size.
- Continue to Inhale and Exhale- Keep performing the exercise in the manner described above. Focus solely on the rhythm.
- Continue for at least ten minutes- As you inhale, imagine that the fresh air is permeating and revitalizing every cell in your body.
- Continue to Exhale- Imagine that all your worries are leaving you, that you are expelling all the stress and tension from your body.
In the beginning, practice abdominal breathing for up to ten minutes. Once you have established a regular routine, you can extend your exercise sessions to 20 minutes and more.
Benefits of Deep Breathing Exercises or DPE
Now, that you have learned how to properly perform deep breathing exercises, let us take a look at the benefits.
1. Helps You to Calm Down
Whenever you are angry, scared or anxious; you often experience short and shallow breaths. This only worsens the situation as shortness of breath means a drastic reduction in the supply of oxygen to your body. This in turn can cause dizziness and a numbing sensation in your limbs.
This is the reason why in such situations, people are often advised to take long, deep breaths. This increases the flow of oxygen to your body and helps you to calm down and deal with the situation instead of panicking. Due to the increased supply of oxygen, the brain releases endorphins that create feelings of pleasure or happiness, thus providing relief from negative emotions.
2. Helps in Detoxification
Deep breathing helps in detoxifying and rejuvenating your body cells as you take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. The fresh supply of oxygen re-energizes your cells, while the expelled carbon dioxide represents removal of cellular waste. Cellular waste is generated as a by-product of cellular respiration.
Cellular respiration refers to the process by which our body cells absorb nutrients for energy and expel their waste products. Most of the body’s toxins are removed via the respiration process. Hence, deep breathing plays a significant role in removing harmful toxins from your body.
3. Reduces Stress and any Related Health Problems
High levels of tension and anxiety can lead to a plethora of problems including high blood pressure or hypertension, insomnia, lethargy, moodiness and depression. Deep breathing can help lower your stress levels and consequently reduce any associated health issues. Lower stress levels can also enhance your mental faculties and improve your efficiency.
4. Relieves Pain
Remember all the delivery scenes from movies and shows where the nurse tells the woman experiencing labor pain to take deep breaths? Well, there is a science behind it as studies show that deep breathing actually does help relieve pain. Studies indicate that deep breathing can provide relief from pain as it acts directly on the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for your fight or flight reaction in times of stress or emergency. Taking slow, deep breaths can dampen the responses of sympathetic nervous system and increase oxygen supply, which helps reduce pain.
5. Strengthens the Lungs
Deep breathing exercises your diaphragm and lungs. This strengthens your respiratory system and increases your physical stamina. In fact, according to a study published in the 2005 edition of CHEST, patients who had performed deep breathing exercises for four days after undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery had better pulmonary function on the fourth day as compared to the those who had not performed any breathing exercises post-surgery.
6. Makes your Heart Stronger
Deep breathing exercises can lead to a stronger heart and a lowered risk of heart problems. The increased oxygen supply means that the heart does not have to overexert itself in order to supply oxygen to each and every part of the body.
Stress and anxiety can sometimes also cause heart palpitations. Heart palpitations often accompany panic attacks and can make you feel as if your heart is beating at an accelerated rate, fluttering or skipping a beat. Taking slow, deep breaths can help you calm down and control the erratic beating of your heart. Panic attacks on the other hand are episodes of severe anxiety or terror that are often accompanied by chest pain, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, and a tingling or numbing sensation.
The shortness of breath that is experienced further aggravates the situation as the body’s oxygen supply is drastically reduced. Deep breathing exercises can help you in such situation as taking in slow and steady breaths restores the oxygen supply to your body. Additionally, by focusing only on inhaling and exhaling, you can let go of the fear and anxiety that threaten to overwhelm you.
7. Helps in Weight Loss
DPE also helps in weight loss as the increased oxygen supply causes the cells to burn more fat. Moreover, abdominal breathing exercises also help in burning the excess fat from around your waist. Using belly breathing exercises to expand and contract your stomach, exercises your abdominal muscles and also burns off the surrounding fat. Many of us turn to food for comfort in times of stress and anxiety. As performing deep breathing exercises lowers your stress levels, you will be able to control your food cravings.
8. Increases Your Energy Levels
Deep breathing increases the oxygen content in your blood supply and also removes harmful toxins from your system. As your oxygen level increases, you burn extra calories and gain energy. This greatly increases your energy levels and makes you more active.
9. Aids in Digestion
Deep breathing leads to greater oxygen supply to your digestive organs. When your digestive organs receive more oxygen, they function more efficiently. Thus, deep breathing prevents indigestion. As your body is able to digest food properly, your nutrition levels improve automatically.
10. Improves Immunity
Deep breathing increases the amount of oxygen supplied to the tissues and muscles. As a result they are able to repair and regenerate themselves much faster. This boosts immunity as the body now has more energy to fight diseases. The increased oxygen content also promotes better absorption of nutrients in your body. As your body absorbs more nutrients, your immune system becomes stronger and better-equipped to fight diseases.
Try to spare at least 10 minutes daily from your busy schedule and devote that time to performing deep breathing exercises. You can achieve great benefits in the long run by performing this simple activity on a regular basis.