How to Take a Deep Breath

Have you ever tried “just taking a deep breath” and found that it does absolutely nothing for you? Deep diaphragmatic breathing is truly one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the effects of stress on the body. Unfortunately, most people don’t know how to do it in a way that’s actually helpful.

Try it now – go ahead and “take a deep breath” and see what happens. If you’re like most people, you’ll find that your upper chest will puff out and lift, and maybe your shoulders will move up as well. You may also notice tightness in your shoulders and upper chest. This is what people typically do in the doctor’s office when the doctor wants to listen to their lungs. Ironically, this type of breathing is actually fairly shallow, thoracic (upper chest) breathing, Not a deep diaphragmatic (or abdominal) breath. And you definitely won’t feel more relaxed! In fact, it could even do the opposite.

Shallow chest breathing tends to activate the sympathetic flight-or-fight response. In other words, it can actually make you even more stressed. True deep breathing does the opposite — it turns on resting and digestive parasympathetic activity, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, suppresses adrenaline and cortisol, and shuts down the body’s stress response. It also relaxes muscles in the throat, stomach, and intestines, helping to reduce reflux, bloating, and cramps.

How to breathe really deep

Here’s how to do it. Stand up. Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach just below your belly button. To identify the muscle you’re going to use, try tensing or sucking in your stomach (like you’re in a swimsuit ad) quickly and repeatedly, about 5 or 6 times. You should feel a slight muscle burn just below your chest. I have it? This is your diaphragm.

Read  How To Wear Cargo Trousers Like Hailey Bieber & Budget Alternatives

Next, we’re going to exhale by contracting this muscle and contracting the abdomen. Imagine you are trying to blow out a candle. Actually hold a finger in front of you about a foot from your face and tighten your stomach and blow a puff of air onto your finger. You should feel the air rush past your finger. Do it two or three times in a row.

If you can do that, I want you to pretend to blow out all the candles on my next birthday cake. That’s a lot of candles (but I won’t tell you how many!). This means you have to breathe out really long and persistently. Go ahead and try. Take a breath and then blow out the candles. When you’re done blowing out the candles, simply relax and let the air naturally flow back into your lungs. Then try again. Ideally, you should exhale for 6 to 8 seconds and then inhale for 5 to 7 seconds. You want the exhale to be longer than the inhale, and you want the entire breath cycle to last 10-15 seconds. This will give you a breathing rate of between four and six breaths per minute.

Simply trying to slow your breathing to this rate will do wonders for shutting down the stress response in your body. If you’re having trouble getting the hang of it, try lying down. I guarantee your body knows how to do this – this is how you breathe when you sleep. It just takes a little time to learn how to do it intentionally. You can also simply focus on stimulating your breathing to achieve a breathing rate of six breaths per minute or less.

Read  How to Host the Ultimate Game Night

Benefits for the digestive tract

Deep diaphragmatic breathing not only shuts down the body’s stress response, but also optimizes mobility in the digestive tract. This is especially good news for people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). When your gut is cramping, sometimes just two to four deep breaths can be enough to relax the motor muscles and relieve the spasms.

Another benefit of deep breathing is that you can do it anywhere, anytime and no one needs to know you’re doing it. Try it when you’re stuck at a red light, on the train, or in line. Try it in bed at night before bed. Like any skill, it takes practice to breathe deeply to relax. Practice deep breathing for just a minute (let’s say four or five breaths) three or four times a day and you’ll get better and better at it, and it’ll be more helpful to you when you’re really stressed or suffering from abdominal cramps and discomfort. Use this secret weapon against stress and your digestion will improve!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.