Kevin Huang, Bsc Pharm Student
The world is becoming busier than ever. With challenges waiting around every corner, it can be difficult to find the time to breathe and relax. You might find yourself anxious, tense and stressed; your mind lost in thought, trying to focus on what needs to be done. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, yet it happens to the very best of us.
When we are under stress, the way we breathe changes. This is our body’s coping mechanism, reminding us something has changed. Take for instance, when you are sad, your breathing becomes shallow, slow and may quiver as the tears rolls down your face. With happiness, you breathe quickly with joy. As you may have noticed, every emotion affects the way we breathe. Thus, if we can learn to manage it, we may have better control over our stress and emotions.
Benefits of Deep Breathing
Countless studies have been conducted and illustrate the benefits of deep breathing. It has shown to be effective in managing conditions such as anxiety 1,2 and depression.3 In addition to improved mental health, what makes these techniques great is how simple they are to learn. All it takes is a little time and determination to make the change.
How to Deep Breathe
The core principle of deep breathing is understanding the flow. You must be patient because the process can’t be rushed. It’s important to take the time to control the rate at which you breathe, and you will see the results soon after.
#1: The 4-7-8 Rule
The first technique we want to take a look at is the 4-7-8 rule, and it can be done following these 4 simple steps:4
- Begin by relaxing your body. Breathe in through your nose and count to 4.
- Silently hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Finally, slowly breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds. Release all the air by the end of the exercise.
- Repeat step 1-3 for several cycles until you feel relaxed.
After a few practices, you’ll start to notice the benefits. Your mind will begin to calm, allowing you to focus on your task. Once you have mastered this technique, you can start to engage your entire body.
#2: Rolling Breathing
Rolling breathing focuses on the flow of breathing by engaging your entire body. By using your diaphragm and abdomen, you can amplify its relaxing effects:4
- Preparation: To guide you through the exercise, place your left hand on your abdomen and the right on your chest.
- Lower Breathing: Using your abdomen, take a deep breath and fill your lower lungs. Notice how only the left-hand raises. The hand on your chest should remain still. Repeat this step several times until you are comfortable with the technique.
- Higher Breathing: With a slow, deep breath, begin to fill your lower lungs using your abdomen. As you reach the midpoint of inhalation, engage your diaphragm to fill the upper lung. It should feel like a wave of air reaching to the sky, ready to roll down.
- The Release: Quietly, exhale through the mouth, focusing on the left hand first, then the right. The air should roll out like the descending wave, completing the cycle.
- Repeat the process for several minutes. Remember, breathe slowly to avoid feeling lightheaded.
Unlike the breathing technique involving the 4-7-8 rule, rolling breathing may take longer to master. However, don’t let this steer you away from it as it can be a very effective way to manage stress. Also, it’s important to remember to not rush the process. Instead, take the time to ease yourself into it for maximum benefit.
Everyone needs time for themselves. Give yourself about 5 to 10 minutes each day to practice deep breathing. If you find yourself in a stressful moment, take a quick moment and use deep breathing techniques. At first it may not be as easy, but with time and practice, it will become easy to help with your stress.
As always, we hope you took away something valuable from this piece. If you have any questions or concerns regarding this article or others, feel free to reach out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or at firstname.lastname@example.org with your feedback. We’d love to hear from you.
- Yu, W., & Song, J. (2010). Effects of Abdominal Breathing on State Anxiety, Stress, and Tocolytic Dosage for Pregnant Women in Preterm Labor. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing,40(3), 442. doi:10.4040/jkan.2010.40.3.442
- Perciavalle, V., Blandini, M., Fecarotta, P., Buscemi, A., Corrado, D. D., Bertolo, L., . . . Coco, M. (2016). The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurological Sciences,38(3), 451-458. doi:10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8
- Chien, H., Chung, Y., Yeh, M., & Lee, J. (2015). Breathing exercise combined with cognitive behavioural intervention improves sleep quality and heart rate variability in major depression. Journal of Clinical Nursing,24(21-22), 3206-3214. doi:10.1111/jocn.12972
- Stress Management: Breathing Exercises for Relaxation. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.healthlinkbc.ca/health-topics/uz2255
- Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Take a deep breath – Harvard Health. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/take-a-deep-breath
- Learning Deep Breathing. (2016, July 17). Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/lib/learning-deep-breathing/
- Dynamed Plus