Did you know that just changing your breathing can help you feel calmer?
Think about this quote by Dr. Lauren Fogel Mersy : “Deep breathing is our nervous system’s love language.” What does this mean?
You may have heard a lot about things like mindfulness and meditation, but practicing deep breathing is another powerful way to feel more calm. You might be surprised at how powerful your breath can be. In fact, simply lengthening your inhales and exhales can make a big difference in your stress levels. This is because breathing affects your nervous system. Your sympathetic nervous system controls your fight or flight response, and your parasympathetic nervous system controls your “rest and relax” response. Deep breathing can help soothe your sympathetic nervous system so you are less activated and can relax more easily.
Deep breathing can stimulate the vagus nerve, which is closely tied to your rest and relax response. It actually makes up the main nerves in your parasympathetic nervous system and affects many different functions in your body! These include your heart rate, digestion, and even your immune system. The vagus nerve (or nerves, since there is a left and right nerve) runs on either side of your body and through your neck all the way down to your abdomen. On its way, it passes by many vital organs that keep your body running smoothly. No wonder it plays such a big role in your well being.
Deep breathing is easy to practice wherever you are. One activity to try is box breathing. Here’s how you do it:
- On your inhale, count to 4.
- Pause by holding your breath in for 4.
- Exhale while counting to 4.
- Hold your breath for 4.
The length of your inhales, exhales and pauses form a box!
UpStreet also has a library of videos you can use to guide you in your breathing, created by one of our very own therapists. You can find them here:
Most importantly, find what works for you. Doing deep breathing can help calm and center in a stressful moment, but it can take time to see long term results. If it’s something that appeals to you, see how you feel after a month of regular deep breathing! You may just be surprised.