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We have become pretty bad at the most basic act of living: breathing. We breathe through our mouths and into our chests, and we do it way too fast.
Besides the health problems this may cause, breathing the wrong way may have another big consequence: contributing to our anxiety and other mental health problems.
Instead of trying to think yourself out of feeling anxious, you can do something more specific: breathe slow or fast, in a particular rhythm, or through a nostril; this can work as an instant relief.
A regular breathing practice will help you feel calmer in daily situations, but studies suggest that focusing on your breathing in moments of acute stress could also be useful.
The way we breathe can set off a cascade of physical changes in the body that promote either stress or relaxation.
Breathing impacts the sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) branches of our nervous system, and certain techniques can promote more parasympathetic calm and relaxation. Some may also cause us to release hormones like prolactin and possibly oxytocin, the feel-good hormone of love and bonding.
Many of the techniques that have been formally researched are derived from pranayama, yogic breathing that dates back to ancient India:
Although these shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for therapy or a cure for severe anxiety, they can be a free, simple tool for both short-term relief and long-term benefit.
SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:
How it’s done: Inhale for a count of 4, then exhale for a count of 4, all through the nose, which adds a natural resistance to the breath. Once you manage it, you can go up to a c...
When it works best: Before an exam, or any stressful event.
How it’s done: Starting in a comfortable meditative pose, hold the right thumb over the right nostril and inhale deeply through the left nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril. Continue the pattern, inhaling through the right nostril, closing it off with the right thumb and exhaling through the left nostril.
When it works best: Crunch time, or whenever it’s time to focus or energize.
Breathing is at the core of ancient (and currently trendy) mindfulness practices, from yoga and tai chi to meditation.
However, studies suggest that breathing exercises alone, derived from...
It involves filling the lungs to the max and goes by various names like belly or diaphragmatic breathing.
It has been linked to improved cognitive performance, lower stress levels, and lower blood pressure.
Central to ancient Hindu philosophy was prana, described as vital “airs” or “energies” flowing through the body. Stemming from that belief, yoga was built on pranayama or breath retention.