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Mental Health & Breathing: Exhale the bullshit

Tired? Nervous? In a bad mood?

You can create more balance, energy and wellbeing with the right breathing techniques. Here’s how. Our breathing is the only bodily function that runs autonomously, yet we can consciously control it.

This makes breathing quite possibly our most underestimated ‘instrument’, and at the same time one of our most effective. In this article you will learn how to use this instrument for better wellbeing. The following exercises are easy to integrate into everyday life, and will lead even the uninitiated to a relaxed state of mind and body, which in turn brings more concentration and energy to the things that are important to you.

All forms of discomfort, anxiety, nervousness and stress are expressed through the body: sometimes more visible and tangible than at other times. That’s why you should first confront physical symptoms with your body rather than your mind. There are various ways to help your body, and therefore also your mind, find more relaxation and balance. One simple and effective method is your breath.

Here, you will learn more about a breathing technique that has an instant positive effect.

Chest v Abdominal Breathing

Did you know that we have two breathing centers? One in the chest and one in the belly. Most people, when they’re awake, breathe only into the chest and consequently do too much shallow breathing.
This means we don’t supply our bodies with enough oxygen, which leads to fatigue and a lack of energy.
Deep abdominal breathing, on the other hand, stimulates our nervous system to relax. So when we practice deep abdominal breathing, it leads to more oxygen supply and thus more energy, in addition to increased relaxation for the body and mind.

To prepare, follow these steps:

001
Find a comfortable seat and close your eyes

002
Concentrate on your natural breath

003
Bring your attention to your mouth: relax your jaw, part your lips slightly, do not clench your teeth, let your tongue lie loosely in the mouth

004
Now move your attention to your shoulders: let them hang down in a relaxed way

005
Place one hand on your belly, one on your chest: feel that they are completely relaxed

Chest vs abdominal breathing – how to do it:

First, notice the movement in your chest – breathe in and out into your chest only
Now, consciously breathe into your belly, so that it becomes completely round
Observe your hand on your belly, how it moves out when you inhale, and in when you exhale
Now, try to slow down your breathing and inhale and exhale only into your belly
Take short pauses between inhaling and exhaling

Gentle breathing calms the autonomic nervous system, reducing stress, agitation and anxiety. Continue this breathing for as long as it feels good.

After a while you may notice that your hands are quite warm. This is because another effect of slow and deep breathing is that your blood vessels open up, therefore stimulating your blood circulation.

When you’ve had enough, slowly open your eyes and note how your body and mind feel. Both should now feel calm and relaxed, but also fresh and full of energy.

Repeat the exercise as soon as you feel tension, restlessness or stress. Just five minutes is enough to relax your body and mind, and recharge them with new energy.

Our breathing is the only bodily function that runs autonomously

Breathing techniques, combined with meditation and journaling, can also help you visualize your future self. The science-backed theory is that once you have a clear image in your mind of what you want to achieve, you can then start making steps towards it. In our Picture Your Future Self digital course you will learn these easy-to-apply methods, and gain greater strength and control over your life.

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