An age old advice, one given by mothers, friends, doctors, psychologists and the go-to of anyone trying to get someone to calm down.
Have you ever wondered why this advice is not a mere distraction technique but also holds great value? It’s scientifically proven that taking slow, deep breaths can calm the brain when it goes into overdrive, and it can also help regulate other bodily functions.
“When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing tends to be irregular and shallow,” says Kristoffer Rhoads, a clinical neuropsychologist who treats patients at the UW Medicine Memory & Brain Wellness Centre at Harborview Medical Centre.”
Deep breathing also known as diaphragmatic breathing is a practice that enables more air to flow into your body and can help calm your nerves, reducing stress and anxiety.
It can also help you improve your attention span and lower pain levels.
How deep breathing calms the body and the mind :
Your breath isn’t just part of your body’s stress response, it’s key to it.
You can induce a state of anxiety or panic in someone just by having them take shallow, short breaths from their chest, Rhoads says.
Which means that purposeful deep breathing can physically calm your body down if you’re feeling stressed or anxious.
It can even help you deal with day-to-day anxiety as well as more pervasive problems such as generalized anxiety disorder.
But why does deep breathing work? It has to do with how your nervous system functions.
Here’s a quick and painless biology lesson:
Your autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions like heart rate and digestion, is split into two parts. One part, the sympathetic nervous system, controls your fight-or-flight response. The other part, the parasympathetic nervous system, controls your rest-and-relax response. While both parts of your nervous system are always active, deep breathing can help quiet your sympathetic nervous system and therefore reduce feelings of stress or anxiety.
“It is not possible to turn the sympathetic nervous system off completely, but I think of shifting one’s breathing to a modulated, slow, relaxed pattern of not overly deep inhales and exhales as a way to turn the volume down on it,” Rhoads explains.
Let us now understand the benefits of deep breathing. This practice has both physical health and mental health benefits.
Physical health benefits include:
Reducing Bodily Tension
Inducing Detoxification in the body
Encouraging Oxygen Exchange
Reducing Muscle Pain
Assisting in improving digestion and managing body weight
On the other hand, some of theMental Health benefits of deep breathing are :
Helps control stress levels
Improves the ability to be present in the moment
Improves cognitive functions - When the brain is fully oxygenated and so are the nerve cells, through deep breathing your cognition improves and helps channel more positive thoughts!
Helps boost memory power - Similarly, the part of our brain called the hippocampus is responsible for our short-term memory and turns the same into long-term memory. When the hippocampus is oxygenated, it gives us a better chance to remember things more clearly, thus boosting our memory.
Helps improve quality of sleep
Helps manage symptoms of anxiety and depression
When we encounter any anxiety-provoking situation in our lives we lose our clarity. Under such situations, if we pay attention to our breathing and practice deep breathing exercises, the brain will get the required amount of oxygen for its optimal level of functioning. This, in turn, gives the brain clarity to think in the right direction.
One of the major reasons for depression is low levels of certain hormones like- serotonin and norepinephrine. Deep breathing levels of these hormones can improve with an increase in the brain’s oxygen level. Thus, it helps reduce the signs of depression.
Here are some of the common deep breathing techniques for you to practice:
1. 4-7-8 breathing technique
Before starting the breathing pattern, adopt a comfortable sitting position and place the tip of the tongue on the tissue right behind the top front teeth.
To use the 4-7-8 technique, focus on the following breathing pattern:
empty the lungs of air
breathe in quietly through the nose for 4 seconds
hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds
repeat the cycle up to 4 times
2. Diaphragmatic breathing
You may consider trying diaphragmatic breathing to relieve the symptoms of lung conditions, stress, and anxiety. Some people refer to belly breathing as diaphragmatic breathing, and it can also be part of a pulmonary rehabilitation program. It can help strengthen the lungs and make them work more efficiently.
To perform diaphragmatic breathing, a person should:
place the hands lightly on the belly
breathe in through the nose until the belly rises
breathe out through the mouth for twice as long
3. Mindful breathing
This technique requires a person to concentrate fully on the breath, using this focused attention as a form of meditation.
There are many different mindful breathing techniques. A simple one is to focus on the natural rhythm of breathing in and out, without trying to change it. Doing this may naturally slow down breathing.
To perform mindful breathing, a person must:
find a quiet place without distractions
choose a comfortable position, ideally sitting or lying down
focus on breathing by feeling and listening to the body inhale and exhale
allow thoughts to pass through the mind without judgment
There is no denying that ,by the simple addition of Deep Breathing exercise in our life, can cause a significant change in our physical as well as mental health.
May is the month of Mental Health Awareness, a topic we at Carebyte are not only passionate about but one we want to educate all our members on.
Being in good health is a combination of physical and mental health. At Carebyte we understand the value of mental health and the growing need to not only spread awareness but also help our members manage their mental health in the most efficient way possible.
Our team has experienced clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who work in tandem with the rest of the team, to ensure that you are putting your best foot forward every single day.
Join us in spreading awareness - Meet your Carebyte Team today!