The way you breathe has a huge impact on your stress levels. That’s because your breathing is deeply connected to your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems and regulates the release of hormones and neurotransmitters. These hormones and neurotransmitters include cortisol, testosterone, and adrenaline.
When you are stressed out, your breathing quickens and becomes shallower. When you are relaxed, you breathe deeper and fuller. This correlation works both ways though, slowing your breathing will make you less stressed and vice versa.
The key is to make sure that when you are relaxing, you are able to breathe in as deeply and fully as possible. There are a few ways to do this…
Right now, you are probably breathing wrong. Most of us do not pay close attention to the way we breathe and as a result, we are probably not getting the right amount of oxygen into our lunges.
To find out if you are breathing incorrectly, place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Now breath normally and notice which hand moves first and whether both move at all. What you might find is that the chest moves first and the stomach moves ever-so-slightly afterwards.
Unfortunately, this is the wrong way to breathe and it won’t allow you to bring in as much oxygen as possible.
Instead, you should breathe first by allowing your stomach to distend, which will, in turn, open up the abdominal cavity. You should then breathe in so that your lungs are filled and then move your chest. This not only allows you to bring in much more oxygen making you feel less stressed, it also trains your transverse abdominals and encourages proper posture.
If you look at a baby or an animal, they breathe in deeply. This is how they breathe naturally, so what went wrong for us? It comes down to posture again and the fact that we spend a long time sitting in front of a computer hunched over and unable to breathe from the stomach.
Trying to remember to do this is not easy which is just one more reason that mindfulness training is so valuable. You can use it to become more mindful of the way you are breathing.
During actual meditation though, you will want to breathe as deeply and as efficiently as possible. One way to do this is to use something called ‘equal breathing’ from yoga. This involves counting the seconds for both the inhalation and exhalation making sure that they are equal. Ideally, you are trying to breathe in and out for a good 3 seconds or more. This will allow you to completely fill and empty the lungs refreshing all of your important organs in your body.
Use this at the start of your mindfulness meditation or at the start of your day and it will help you to become more relaxed and more focused. It will also help you to improve your breathing in the long term!
To breathing correctly,