Ever notice how your breathing becomes more rapid and shallow when you’re feeling anxious? That breath pattern can itself contribute to your feelings of distress.
The good news? Deliberately practicing a different breath pattern can reduce your sense of unease. Here are three simple breathing exercises designed to promote feelings of well-being.
This technique leads you to draw air more deeply into your lungs, which encourages better oxygen exchange.
- Find a relaxed, comfortable position, either seated or lying down. If seated, keep your feet on the floor.
- Place one hand on your heart and one on the upper abdomen, just beneath the rib cage. Take a few natural breaths, noticing which hand rises more.
- Now deliberately bring air deeper into your lungs; that will cause the lower hand to rise more than the upper hand. Focus on breathing slowly; deep breathing too rapidly can actually increase your sense of anxiety.
- After 5 to 10 such breaths, concentrate on completely emptying your lungs when exhaling.
- After 5 to 10 more breaths, return to your normal breathing for at least 5 breaths before rising.
Practicing mindfulness—staying focused on what you’re experiencing in the present moment, without trying to interpret or judge that experience—has been shown to have a number of beneficial effects on well-being.
- Sit or lie down so that you’re relaxed and comfortable. You can close your eyes or keep them open.
- Take a few slow, deep breaths; concentrate on feeling your body expand while inhaling, which should be done through your nose.
- For a few more breaths, focus on how it feels to exhale, through either your nose or you mouth. Sign or vocalize if you want.
- For a new more breaths, keep concentrating on your respiration through the entire cycle: What do you feel when you breathe in and then breathe out? Focus on the flow of air, on the physical sensations in your nostrils, throat, chest and abdomen.
- As thoughts come to you, acknowledge them without dwelling on them. Think, “they’re only thoughts”; don’t judge them as “good” or “bad.”
- Breathe normally a few times as you bring your attention back to your surroundings.
Lengthening the Exhale
Need a quick way to regain your composure when you don’t have time for a full breathing exercise? Then focus on lengthening your exhale, getting your lungs to empty slowly and completely. (Once you get good at it, no one on Zoom need ever know what you’re doing.)
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.