From the everyday stress of day-to-day living to the collective concerns surrounding disease outbreaks, political unrest, and disturbing news stories, there is no shortage of anxieties to keep us awake at night. Stressors like these contribute to stress, but psychologists say you can feel calmer by taking the time to breathe.
Dr. Patricia Gerbarg is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry who says changing the signals to the brain can change your emotions. Gerbarg told TODAY, “The brain listens to the lungs, so the way that we breathe has a tremendous effect on how the brain functions for many different mechanisms.”
Researchers found slower breathing reduces anxiety and fear while increasing reasoning, so a person’s thinking mind restrains their emotional part, helping them better evaluate situations. You can destress and relax right now with these breathing techniques.
It can help activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the calming “rest and digest” part of the body. Babies breathe through their bellies, while adults usually breathe through their chests. She instructs her patients to:
- Choose a comfortable position – lying down may be more accessible.
- Slowly inhale for four seconds. As the abdomen rises, the chest should move minimally.
- Exhale for at least four seconds.
- Every day, practice belly breathing for five minutes. It’s also good for relaxing.
To experience relaxation and optimal brain function, you should slow your breaths down to five per minute, Gerbarg said. It lets the brain know everything is fine. Here are her suggestions:
- You can download any app that provides breathing cues. Counting is not essential; focus on breathing.
- Close your eyes and focus inward to block out external distractions while you breathe softly.
- “Breathe very slowly. The breath should be slow and gentle. The belly expands naturally.
- Do this technique for about 20 minutes a day. If you can’t sleep at night or are feeling anxious, it may help.
It is one of the daily routines that Mark Divine uses and recommends as part of his daily routine. The best tools are to gain control of our minds, awareness, and breath control. Here’s how:
- Sit in a seated position and exhale.
- Inhale for five counts.
- Take a deep breath.
- Repeat this cycle five times.