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The Mental Health Benefits of Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in our bodies. The practice of breathing deeply can help to manage anxiety and PTSD and offers many mental health benefits for us.

When we take deep breaths, signals are sent to our brains, telling us to calm down and relax. These messages are translated throughout our bodies, reducing tension and relieving stress when we are anxious or feel overwhelmed. It is common to have an increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and high blood pressure when we feel stressed. The practice of deep breathing decreases these symptoms, helping us to calm our minds and bodies.

“Deep breathing is one of the most restorative and rejuvenating things you can do for your body,” says Tory Miller, Clinical Programs Manager at Diversus Health. “It taps into the brain-body connection and can result in both physical and emotional, long- and short-term benefits by evoking a physical reduction in stress, improved mindfulness, and grounding. With a multitude of breathing techniques, you can find one that works best for you.”

Breathing exercises are simple and easy to learn. Practice deep breathing techniques whenever you want. No special tools or equipment is necessary. Try out a few different breathing exercises to see which technique work best for you. Below are a few deep breathing methods that you can try out to help benefit your mental health and well-being:

Belly Breathing

Belly breathing is a basic, relaxing exercise that can come in handy anytime we need to relax or relieve stress.

  1. Sit or lay down in a comfortable position.
  2. Rest one hand on your stomach, just below your ribs, and the other on your chest.
  3. Inhale deeply through your nose, expanding your belly outward. Your chest should remain still.
  4. Exhale through pursed lips as if you are trying to whistle. Feel your hand on your stomach sink as you push out all the air.
  5. Repeat this technique 3 to 10 times and take your time with each breath.
  6. Observe how you feel at the end of this exercise. What do you notice?

Mindful Diaphragmatic Breathing

Become aware of your breathing by being mindful of how your body responds to stress and anxiety. This practice can help you recognize when you need to deliberately relax your breathing to relax and de-stress. First, get into a comfortable position either in a chair or lying down. Close your eyes. Focus on your breath, paying attention to the pace and depth of your breathing. Are you taking shallow breaths or inhaling deeply? Adjust your breathing to a steady pace and inhale deeply to center and relax.

Counted Breathing

It can be helpful to count our breathing as a form of meditation and healthy pacing. This practice encourages us to elongate and expand our breathing with measured exhales. There are a couple of ways we can do this:

  • Inhale, placing your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Breathe through your nose and count down slowly from five while inhaling. When you are ready to exhale, let the air escape through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this exercise several times to empty your lungs and relax into each breath.
  • “4-7-8 breathing” is a similar technique. Inhale for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. The pause in between your breaths allows you to slow things down and relax.

Balloon Breathing

This technique is called visualized breathing or inflating the balloon. Arrange yourself into a comfortable position and close your eyes. Begin by inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. While you inhale, imagine that your abdomen is inflating with air like a balloon. As you exhale, imagine that the air is slowly escaping the balloon. You do not have to force the air out. It escapes on its own, in its own time.

Imagine that the balloon is your favorite color or pattern and that it floats higher into the sky with each breath. This visualization can help to relax you further as you practice the technique. The intent is to help you breathe deeply from your diaphragm by eliminating shallow breathing in order to relieve stress.

These deep breathing exercises are just a few of the many techniques you can practice to reduce stress in your body and mind, as well as improve your mental health. Experiment with a few different breathing exercises to find out which one works best for you. If you or someone you love is struggling to manage stress and anxiety, request an appointment with one of our professional mental health providers at Diversus Health today.

*If you need immediate assistance, call our crisis hotline at 844-493-8255, or text ‘TALK’ to 38255.

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