It is quite remarkable how helpful it is to stop and take a few minutes to do some deep breathing exercises. Endorphins are released whenever we do deep breathing and they are our natural, feel-good painkillers. You can do a deep breathing exercise for emergency stress reduction or develop a daily practice of deep breathing as part of a wellness routine.
When we practice deep breathing exercises, the breath helps to remove toxins from our vital organs and promote improved blood flow throughout our body.
By simply breathing deeply, we:
- Take in more oxygen
- Which, in turn, provides more energy to the body
Breathing deeply is also a well-known stress reliever because it is the fastest way to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response).
Are you a shallow breather?
Breathing deeply has the power to:
- Relax your body and mind
- Release stress in the moment
- Contribute to living a longer and healthier life
While breathing deeply benefits our overall health and wellbeing, the truth is many of us are shallow breathers.
Check this out with yourself right now. Turn your attention to your breathing. Do you see anything moving?
If the answer is no, you are likely taking shallow breaths. Where there is stress, there is usually shallow breathing. The good news is that with very little effort, deep breathing can become an easy and unconscious practice.
Deep breathing instructions
You may follow along with the guided audio recording included here or read the deep breathing instructions below at your own pace.
If you can count to five and can create two minutes of uninterrupted time, you are fully equipped to learn to breathe deeply!
How about doing a deep breathing exercise right now?
- First, sit upright in a comfortable position, with your hands on your knees and your shoulders relaxed.
- Now, in your mind, make a conscious decision to focus on your breath.
- Close your eyes and exhale completely. Your lungs first need to be empty in order to allow you to inhale fully and deeply.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose for a count of five. Breathe deeply into your lower abdomen. If it helps, picture your lungs expanding with air as you breathe in. As your lungs expand they push down on your diaphragm causing your belly to expand.
- Once you have taken a good deep breath in, hold in your breath for a count of three.
- Then slowly exhale the air out through your nose while counting to five.
- At the end of your exhale, hold once again for a count of three.
- Take another slow breath in through your nose, again counting slowly up to five.
- Remember to breathe deeply down into your belly and let your belly expand as far as is comfortable. There is no need to force it.
Repeat this deep breathing exercise 5-10 times, which should only take a few minutes.
- Inhale to a count of five
- Hold for a count of three
- Exhale to a count of five
- Hold once more for a count of three
- Then repeat
When you do this deep breathing exercise, expect your mind to wander. That is what the mind does. When you notice this, simply bring your attention back to your deep breathing and begin your count again.
Make it a routine practice
If you practice this deep breathing exercise on a regular basis you will notice that it becomes easier to focus on your breathing and eventually you will notice that you regularly breathe deeply without having to think about it at all.
As a busy caregiver you may be asking how you could possibly establish a regular deep breathing practice? Like all practices, you are more likely to be successful if you establish a routine that is realistic for your life.
For example, you could make the decision to take 10 deep breaths first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening.
You could also make a decision to do 5-10 deep breaths every time you go into a certain room, or at every stoplight, or before every Zoom or MS Teams meeting (or maybe it will be needed more after the meeting😉)
Simply tailor this deep breathing practice to what a day in your life looks like. Put sticky notes around as a reminder, or put an alarm on your phone. Again, you will know the best way to remind yourself to breathe…deeply.
Let us know how you have built in a deep breathing practice to your day.