Week 14 – Breath of Life

Your breath is one of the best physiological indicators of whether you are feeling stress or at peace. If you are shallow breathing or holding your breath you are telling your brain that you are under duress and all is not well. If you are taking in full breaths, expanding your belly and slowly exhaling, then the message to your brain is that all is well. Breathing is something you can control to put your mind at ease and reduce stress. Chronic stress can cause anxiety, depression, weight gain, headaches, heart disease, and sleep complications. To reduce the effects of stress, try using a relaxation breathing technique. 

Deep Breathing: Recognize when your breathing is shallow. Take a long slow inhale and allow your belly to expand with the breath, rather than lift your chest. Then slowly exhale while contracting your abdominal muscles. Begin with 3 – 5 deep breaths to feel more relaxed, take in more oxygen, feel more clear headed and at ease. 

4,7,8 Breathing Technique: Inhale while counting in your mind to 4, hold your breath for the count of 7, and slowly exhale out your mouth to a count of 8. Take a few regular breaths if needed or do the cycle a few times in a row. Count at the pace that is comfortable for you. With practice, you should be able to expand the time. This technique is particularly effective, when you first get into bed at night, to help you fall asleep. 

Make a daily practice of using a breathing technique to help quiet the stress response and promote a more relaxed state of being. Find a cue to help you create a daily habit. One cue could be when you first sit down, take a deep breath. Another cue could be every time you come to a stop light. Take some deep breaths until it turns green.  Anytime you notice that you are feeling tense or getting frustrated, pause for a moment and take a deep breath. The more that you do this on a daily basis, the more that you create a habit that will happen automatically when you are feeling stress and reduce the ailments from chronic stress.

What are some ideas for how you could make a daily practice of relaxed breathing?

“As you breathe in, cherish yourself. As you breathe out, cherish all Beings.”– Dalai Lama