Just breathe

‘Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again’ – Thich Nhal Hanh

There is plenty of research out there to tell us that slow breathing can help us in so many ways. It’s great for controlling anxiety, helping with panic attacks, lowering blood pressure and reducing our heart rate when we are scared or worried about something. It can help us feel more enthusiastic about life, bring more joy to our day and improve our mood. By taking some deep slow breaths, we can improve our decision making, take control of a situation, stop an argument and feel more confident. Taking a few deep breaths just before an interview or even in a meeting could be the best decision you make! We can even help ourselves get back to sleep when we wake in the night. It can also, would you believe, reduce pain.

Just breathe (Photo by Kelvin Valerio on Pexels.com)

‘One way to break up any kind of tension is good deep breathing’ – Byron Nelson (American Pro Golfer)

What I didn’t know though, was that we have to practice deep, slow breathing daily. If we do that, once we are in that scary or stressful situation, our bodies will kick in without us thinking about it and our breath will slow down to help calm our nerves or anxiety. That’s because, although deep, slow, breathing sounds easy, and it is, it’s still something we need to practice.

Naturally, when faced with a scary or tense situation, we breathe faster, or hold our breath which makes our heart rate and blood pressure increase and we feel more panicked. This releases a chemical messenger called noradrenaline, which is the brains equivalent of adrenaline, and causes the fight or flight response. Slowing our breathing reduces the levels of this chemical, helping us to feel calm. It also triggers the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system which reduces heart rate and blood pressure.

‘Look after your heart’ (Photo by Jasmine Carter on Pexels.com)

‘Relax and take a deep breath. No one else knows what they’re doing either’ – Ricky Gervais

So how do we practice? The simplest method is to close your eyes and think about your breathing. Count to 4 slowly as you breathe in through your nose, hold your breath for a count of 2, then breathe out slowly through your mouth to a count of 4. By doing this for a few minutes every day we are demonstrating the reaction we want when faced with a stressful situation and our brains will react accordingly. Like most of our tiny tweaks, it’s a good idea to link this practice to something we do already. Maybe some deep breathing while waiting for the kettle to boil or whilst doing our daily stretching routine. Alternatively, we could set an alarm on our phone to remind us to breathe slowly and deeply for a few minutes throughout the day.

‘Remember to breathe!’ (Photo by Anete Lusina on Pexels.com)

‘Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment’ – Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing isn’t even a tiny tweak, after all we all do it, continuously, day in, day out. Imagine what would would happen if we didn’t. OK, maybe not! But the point is, it’s a very simple addition to our daily life isn’t it? Something we do anyway without thinking about. All we need to do is think about it and slow it down for a few minutes every day. Practice makes perfect after all!

Until next time xx


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