The Benefits of Deep Breathing

Breathing is a natural and crucial part of life.You have been breathing since you were born.You don’t even have to think in order to breathe.Your amazing body breathes automatically, whether you are conscious or unconscious.However, there are specific benefits to breathing deeply.

When you are under stress, you may breathe shallowly, hyperventilate, or even hold your breath.Each of these responses cut off oxygen from your brain, and actually increase the stress that you experience.Such actions can cause your mind to panic and go blank, like a deer in the headlights, making it more difficult to think of appropriate actions or resolutions to the stressor.During these incidents, you might not even be aware that your breathing pattern is adding to the stress.Over time, chronic stress might even cause you to forget how to relax.

Deep breathing can effectively help you to reduce your stress and to think more clearly.Practice consciously take long, slow, deep breaths all the way down to your diaphragm, so that your belly rises and falls as you inhale and exhale.In so doing, you send much-needed oxygen to your brain that helps you to analyze the situation and to respond appropriately.

You can calm down much more quickly if you are consciously breathing deeply.When you purposely take long, slow, deep breaths, it forces your body to relax.It’s impossible to be anxious and relaxed at the same time.You cannot be fearful and relaxed at the same time.You can’t be angry and relaxed at the same time.Deep breathing can help to reduce these upsetting emotions, while helping you to be alert and relaxed.

Whenever you’re stressed out, you can put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.Take ten long, slow, deep breaths.Stretch them out as long as you can while you feel your belly rise and fall.Notice how you feel calmer and how your thoughts are slower and clearer afterward.Now you are ready to address the stressful situation.

Practice deep breathing on a daily basis whenever you think about it, whether you are driving, walking, standing in line at the store, or seeing the dentist.You could put reminder notes that say “Breathe” on your mirror, computer screen, refrigerator, or coffee maker.If the stressful situations require more than deep breathing to get resolved, call me at 512-687-3436 for an appointment.

~Linda Eldredge, Ed.D., Psychologist

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