Deep breathing using your diaphragm is one of the best ways to lower your stress levels because breathing deeply causes your brain to send a signal to your body to calm down and relax. You are also activating your cardiovascular and nervous system and increasing how much oxygen is in your blood.
Practising this simple breathing exercise can make a big difference to how you feel when stressed out, help you get a better nights sleep and can also improve the digestive and immune systems.
Grant and I have been doing this exercise for several months and have noticed many benefits including falling asleep faster and staying asleep, feeling calmer and happier and more mindful.
Before you get started, keep these tips in mind:
Choose a place to do your breathing exercise. It could be in your bed, on your living room floor, or in a comfortable chair.
Simple Breathing Exercise for Stress Relief
When breathing totally relax and breathe in deeply so that your stomach inflates, if you are not sure put one hand on your abdomen so that you can feel it rising when you breathe in.
Breathe in deeply through your mouth or nose, (I do the exercise through my nose and Grant does his through his mouth) feel your belly, ribs and chest expanding then exhale and feel this in reverse as if you’re deflating a balloon. Do this rhythmically and reasonably quickly.
10 breaths in and out deeply and quickly, hold the last one out for a slow count of 10.
20 breaths in and out deeply and quickly, hold the last one out for a slow count of 20.
30 breaths in and out deeply and quickly, hold the last one out for a slow count of 30.
Then take a big breath in and hold for as long as you can.
When counting holding my breath out I count one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand and so on. It may take a little practice to get to 30 breaths held out.
If you’re struggling to take deep breaths when sitting up, try doing this exercise lying on your back. Lying down will help to relax your stomach muscles so that they can move more freely. Once you are used to practising lying down you can then do it sitting up.
If you are having trouble sleeping try doing this exercise before going to sleep. It’s also a great way to start the day.