You probably don’t give a second thought to your breathing; it’s something we all do, day in day out. When we breathe in, or inhale, our lungs take in oxygen, which is then delivered to our organs and tissues. When we exhale, carbon dioxide—a waste product—is released from the body.
Unfortunately, high stress and high pressure environments can often lead to short, sharp breaths, the opposite style of breathing that is most desirable for our body. When we’re stressed, the stress hormone cortisol is released, making us breathe faster so that more oxygen can be delivered to the body, at a quicker rate. In the end, our body remains in this high state of stress, with more and more cortisol being pumped out and our breath rate staying on “high alert.”
However, slowing our breathing down, and therefore our heart rate, can help to lower stress levels and induce a state of calm. Studies* have also found how breathing correctly can be a great mood booster. You don’t need to devote a lot of time to breath work. To start, it might take some getting used to, however, incorporating some simple breathing practices into your day, for a maximum of five minutes, can really help to recharge the mind and release tension in the body.
BREATHING TECHNIQUES TO TRY TODAY
Nostril Breathing: This style of breathing is supposedly best done on an empty stomach, so give this a go upon waking, or sometime before breakfast.
Sit upright on a seat. Place your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Hold, then exhale through the left nostril. Once you have fully exhaled, release your right thumb and then cover your left nostril with your ring finger. Inhale in through your right nostril and exhale, before going back to the start and repeating the whole exercise. Aim to start with 60 seconds and work up to doing this breath work for three minutes.
Box Breathing: This is great for on-the-go or when you’re sitting at your desk and in need of a quick relaxation technique.
Start by sitting comfortably and exhale deeply, to empty the lungs. Then, inhale for a count of four through the nose, hold the breath for another four, then exhale again through the mouth for a count of four. Try to do this continually for at least 60 seconds, then in time, work your way up to three minutes.
4-7-8 Breathing: Try this in a seated position or even lying down on the sofa in the evening.
Take your left hand and place it on your stomach and take your right hand and place it on your chest. Close your eyes as you inhale for a count of four, feeling your stomach expand as you do so. Hold this breath for seven seconds.
Then, exhale out for a count of eight. Try and do this 10 to 15 times and you should notice your breathing rate start to slow down.