So many problems can be solved with a few deep breaths. Really. Doing controlled breathing exercises is a quick, convenient and effective (not to mention free) way to reduce feelings of stress and tension, boost confidence, ease muscle tension and pain, improve concentration, lower blood pressure and promote a general feeling of calm.
And different types of breathing exercises can promote different types of wellbeing. So the next time you find yourself in each of these types of situations below, allow yourself to slow down for a moment to practice a mindful breathing exercise.
To Combat a Bad Mood or Anxiety
Next time you feel yourself slipping into a gloomy, blue mood or starting to feel pangs of anxiety, step back and take a moment to center your breathing.
“A few moments focusing on your breath in a meditation can do wonders to quiet the negative thoughts and get you centered into a calmer, more balanced state,” explains certified wellness coach for women in recovery Elizabeth McGann.
McGann recommends the “Better Mood Breath” exercise:
1. Sitting up straight in a chair or sitting on the floor, close your eyes and put one hand in the center of your chest and one hand over your belly button.
2. Take a deep breath in through your nose for eight counts, feeling your belly expand with the breath.
3. Hold your breath for a count of eight.
4. Exhale your breath slowly through your nose for the count of 10.
5. Repeat three times.
Check out other expert recommended tips on how to boost your mood.
To Control Your Temper
We get it, when you’re pissed off the last thing you want to do is to sit down, be calm and do some pansy little breathing exercise. But really, that anger you’re harboring inside (or that’s about to explode outwardly) isn’t good for yourself or anyone around you.
Knowing how anger affects your body, it’s easy to see how breathing can help to calm you. “When something triggers your primitive wiring, it sounds your body’s alarm bells,” explains marriage and family therapist Lisa Bograd, “you experience shallow breath, a racing heart rate and tense muscles.”
To compose yourself the next time someone makes a snide comment or cuts you off in traffic, Bograd recommends stopping, taking a deep breath where you focus on breathing from your lower belly instead of from your chest. This is because, as Bograd explains, when you breathe from your chest, your breathing is shallow. This excites the nervous system, feeding the stress or anger you’re trying to calm.
Temper Controlling Breathing Exercise
1. Do not engage in an angry reaction. Stop, take a deep, full breath from your lower belly. In through the nose, out through the mouth.
3. Repeat a calming word or phrase such as “relax” or “it’s going to be okay.”
4. Remind yourself that you are in control of your responses and that the trigger setting off your anger is not worth the sacrifice of your peace of mind.
Read here for other expert tips on managing stress and temper problems.
Reduce Tension + Increase Energy
Perhaps in a yoga class you’ve practiced the humming breathing exercise, often referred to as humming bee breath. This practice helps to loosen chest tightness commonly associated with stress, reduce tension, improve your circulation, increase energy levels, and promote a clearer mental state.
Humming Breathing Exercise:
1. Sit on the floor with your legs crossed at the ankles or with one leg crossed over the other. Sit up straight with your hands rested on your knees and your eyes closed.
2. Take a few deep, slow breaths in and out.
3. On the next deep breath, slowly exhale through your nose keeping your lips closed, teeth slightly parted and making a humming sound (“hummmm”) as you exhale.
4. Inhale through the nose without humming and then exhale while humming.
5. Repeat the process 10 times.
To Calm Your Nerves + Promote Focus
It’s common for nerves to try to abduct your body before a big presentation or meeting. Instead of letting the butterflies in your stomach get the best of you, take a few quiet minutes to yourself and perform an alternate nostril breathing exercise. It’s not as weird as it sounds—promise.
This practice is believed to calm and center the mind, keep you in the present moment, and harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain to promote mental clarity and relaxation. It can also be very energizing, so do this breathing exercise when you when you want to be focused, calm, and alert.
Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercise:
1. Keeping your mouth closed for the entirety of the exercise, raise your right hand and place your thumb against your right nostril. You can lean your index and middle fingers on the space between your eyebrows. Cover your right nostril with your right thumb. Exhale slowly through your left nostril.
2. Still holding your right thumb over your right nostril, inhale slowly through your left nostril.
3. Now raise your right thumb off of your right nostril, and cover your left nostril with your pinkie finger (on your right hand). Slowly exhale out of your right nostril. Then slowly inhale through your right nostril.
4. Once you’ve completed one full round (exhaling then inhaling out of one nostril and then the other), repeat the process nine times.
To Wake You Up
To warm up your body, wake up your brain, and release dull, sleepy (or even negative) energy from your system, do like the yogis and start your day off right with this “skull shining” breath exercise.
The great thing about this exercise is you can do it quickly anywhere—lying in bed, at the breakfast table, sitting in traffic, etc.
Skull Shining Breathing Exercise
1. Take one long slow breath in through your nose.
2. Focusing on releasing the breath from your lower abdomen, exhale through your nose in one quick, powerful movement. (Remember to keep your mouth closed throughout the exercise.)
3. The exercise may seem awkward at first, as it’s pretty abdominal focused.
Repeat this pattern of inhaling and exhaling through your nose for a total of 10 breaths, resting for one to two seconds after each exhale.
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