There is a real reason that people tell you to take a deep breath when you're upset. The way we breathe gives direct feedback to our nervous system. When we take shallow breaths, our breathing pattern signals our sympathetic nervous system to prepare for fight or flight. But, when we take deep breaths, it signals our parasympathetic nervous system to slow us down. That's why just a few minutes of deep breathing each day can have a surprising impact on your overall well-being.
Time Required: 5 minutes
- Find a comfortable, private space where you will feel safe. Turn off your cell phone and anything else that might distract you.
- Sit in a comfortable position, with one hand on your abdomen.
- Close your eyes. Or, if you are not comfortable closing your eyes, gently fix your gaze on an object in the room that is at eye level.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose. As you breathe in, let your belly expand to push the hand that is resting on your abdomen out. Breathe only as deep as is comfortable for you -- don't go overboard!
- Exhale through your nose, exhaling deeply enough to allow the hand resting on your belly to come back down.
- Continue this way for two to five minutes. If you are new to the practice of deep breathing, two minutes may feel like a very long time! But, as you get more comfortable, you will be able to practice for longer intervals.
- Sitting and paying attention to your breathing can sometimes actually make you feel more anxious temporarily. This is a completely normal reaction -- if it happens to you, just keep coming back to your breathing, allowing yourself to feel anxious, but continuing your practice for a few more moments before giving up. Then, be sure to try again later. Practice is key.
What You Need
- a quiet space