We’ve written about stress before, and ways to combat stress. It turns out one of the best ways to beat stress, is deep breathing. And it also turns out that deep breathing has several other benefits. Take a deep breath, and read this article.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
When we are confronted with a difficult problem, or anything that causes stress, our natural response is typically fight, flight or freeze. This response is natural – and it’s helped us survive for millennia. We can thank our amygdala for that response. However, we can retrain our brain, just a bit, with deep breathing.
Deep breathing, also called belly breathing, accomplishes many things.
- Breathe for weight control. Extra oxygen helps your body burn fat more efficiently.
- Breathing increases muscle mass. The oxygenation that muscles need to grow is provided by deep breathing.
- Breathing is an organ massage. As your diaphragm moves, it is massaging your stomach, small intestine, liver and pancreas as well as the heart. This improves the circulation in all of these organs.
- Deep breathing can relieve pain. When you are in pain, you’re often holding your breath. Breathing into your pain, as mothers do in childbirth, helps ease the pain.
- Deep breathing can strengthen the heart. This is due to the better delivery of oxygen.
- Deep breathing releases toxins. Exhaling air releases carbon dioxide which is a natural waste product of your body’s metabolism.
- Deep breathing helps digestion. The digestive organs receive more oxygen and can operate more efficiently.
- Deep breathing is a mood brightener. It increases pleasure-inducing neurochemicals in the brain that can elevate moods and also fight physical pain.
- Deep breathing strengthens the lungs. This may seem obvious; however healthy lungs are the key to avoiding respiratory problems.
- Improve your posture. Over time, good breathing techniques encourage better posture.
- Improved immune system. Oxygen travels through your bloodstream by attaching to hemoglobin in your red blood cells which helps your body metabolize nutrients and vitamins.
- It relaxes the mind as well as the body. When you are concentrating on inhale … exhale … you’re not worrying about other issues.
How and When to Breathe Deeply
With so many benefits to deep breathing, it seems logical to give it a try. After all, you have to breathe all the time anyway. Deep breathing takes about 15 minutes per day – which is time you’ll make up by feeling better and being healthier. Here’s how:
Find a quiet space to either sit, or lay down on your back. Most people close their eyes.
Repeat this inhale (5), hold (3) exhale (5) for 10-15 minutes twice per day.
- Inhale slowly through your nose, expanding your belly, then fill your chest as you silently count to five.
- Hold your breath and count to three. Try to imagine the oxygen entering every cell of your body.
- Exhale fully from a slightly parted mouth as you count to five. Try to imagine the toxins, stress and oxygen leaving your body.
This should not feel like work that makes you tense up. If you concentrate on the numbers, and the oxygen (or breath or energy if you prefer) your mind can begin to block out other thoughts. If your mind starts to wander, just start again. Inhale to five, hold for three, exhale for five.
It is a good idea to do this at the same time every day if you can so it becomes a mini-ritual or habit. When you breathe deeply and regularly, the benefits will blossom.