When you are tense or stressed I would guess there has been a time when someone has suggested you take a deep breath. It seems like a passing comment, but there is a lot of science to support this suggestion. According to Murali Doraiswamy, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, “If you train yourself to breathe a little bit slower it can have long-term health benefits” including “potentially decreasing inflammation, improving heart health, boosting your immune system and maybe even improving longevity.”
Breathing is something we do every minute of every day, instinctively. However when we breathe mindfully we can cause a shift in our physiology. Distractions fill our life – there is so much noise and chatter, whether that be phones ringing, social media, the TV, even our own thoughts. We often don’t make time where we can focus only on ourselves, to relax, and quiet that internal voice. People practice mindful breathing in different ways but at its core it is about focus on the breath – the inhale, and the exhale. In that moment that is all that matters, the breath in, and the breath travelling out. Doing this in a mindful way, slowly, can relax the body and calm the mind.
It would be easy to cast this practice off as new-age nonsense. However the science backs it up. Deep and slow breathing (5-7 breaths per minute) stimulates the vagus nerve which connects the brain stem with the abdomen – it is part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It controls rest and digest activities. Breathing in this way slows the heart rate and digestion.
Don’t take my word for it. Try it. Find a quiet place if possible. You can stand but it is better to sit or lie down. You can keep your eyes open but I personally find it more beneficial to have my eyes closed. Now slow your breathing down – take longer and more mindful inhalations and exhalations. Do this for a few minutes and see how you feel. Most people report that whilst they feel small immediate benefits, it is the longer term changes that are more noticeable. You will also find it easier with practice to focus solely on your mindful breathing and to let other thoughts just pass by.
Many people find the breathing practice easy to slot into their morning or evening routine. However when they are out and about they are concerned about using it for fear of being noticed and potential embarrassment. This is a common concern. Remember, only you know what you are doing – and you are just breathing like everyone else. If you are concerned, just take slightly less deep breaths, or find a place that is a bit quieter. The message is, use mindful breathing whenever you need it as it is a powerful way to calm the nervous system.
Did you know 'Mindfulness Tips & Meditation Techniques' can be found in nearly every page of your #BestMeLife Journal? Take a look...