Updated: May 18
The mind and body work as a tandem offense when facing the troubles of daily life. We’d argue that breathing is the method in which these two aspects of life mesh together. Like any system involving more than one party, it takes training to ensure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
As the mind wanders or falls into bad habits, so too does the body and vice-versa. Thankfully, like any muscle in the body, we can train ourselves to influence that relationship between the mind and body to create something more symbiotic. As a result, breathing can be the vital key to reducing stress and anxiety.
So, in today’s blog, we’ll be focusing on the power of breathing practice and how controlled breathing can influence the mind and body to work in tandem with each other and soothe the effects of stress and anxiety.
The Nature of Stress
While we talk a lot about stress and how to avoid it, the key thing to remember with stress is that, like anything else, moderation is vital. A little bit of pressure felt here and there is normal, healthy even. Whether it’s the stress of fulfilling a self-imposed deadline, the thrill of a film’s climax or the boss battle of a video game, small pockets of stress in our lives can be valuable for our well-being and overall enjoyment of life.
However, suffering chronic stress all of the time is where things can go awry. More often than not, chronic stress results from a miscommunication between the mind and the body. Suffering regular stresses continually can fool the mind into assuming that is our default state. This has the carry-on effect of pushing the body to create more cortisol with its fight-or-flight response.
A crucial element to overcoming, or managing, the impact of chronic stress and anxiety is challenging your mind and body's default response to stimuli and refocusing that energy towards a better feeling. Of course, this is something very much easier said than done.
Thankfully, breathing can be hugely effective at shifting gears. If practiced for long enough, controlled, deep breathing can be effective at helping the mind and body retrain their responses to stress.
One of the best techniques to help train the mind and body to respond more positively to stress is the method of belly breathing. Belly breathing, or yogic breathing, involves changing your breathing patterns to move your diaphragm outward rather than upward, giving the impression of breathing with your belly.
Simply place one hand above your belly button and your other hand over your heart. Then, close your eyes and breathe in deeply a few times, letting your hands move with your belly and chest with every inhale and exhale.
Keep your breath controlled and even, taking note of the time it takes to inhale and exhale fully. For an effective exercise, keep belly breathing for a few minutes.
For more information regarding how to manage your breathing for a more effective lifestyle, visit our other blogs here at The Exhale to get the latest tips and tricks. For free guided breathing exercises that you can take anywhere, try out the Breathwrk app here.
And remember: Breathe Better, Live Better.