We’ve all said it. “Take a deep breath.”
When the kids come running in the door, breathing heavily and launching into a story a mile a minute. “Take a deep breath.”
When someone is panicked and trying to tell you what happened, but she is obviously under duress. “Relax. Take a breath, then tell me.”
When he storms into your office with a voice just beneath a yell, red-faced and angry about something someone did. “Before you tell me another word, take a deep breath.
But the real benefit comes from breathing before a crisis or stressful event. A deep breath almost at any time can change your mood, improve your day and help you achieve more. I don’t always remember to do it, but when I do, my day is more relaxed and I have a better and calmer presence. As a singer, I know that I feel better after singing a difficult song. The reason may very well be the forced deep breathing from the diaphragm.
Some of the benefits of practiced deep breathing:
- It immediately relaxes you.
- It sends a signal to your brain that you are safe.
- It detoxifies your body by allowing more oxygen into your blood and pushing out carbon dioxide.
- It reduces fatigue.
- It gives you more energy.
- It reduces stress.
- It releases endorphins.
Breathing may be instinctual, but there are best practices. Here’s my preferred method:
1. Take a deep breath in through your nose while counting to 5. You want to breathe in and expand your diaphragm. That means your upper chest doesn’t move as much as your lower belly, which should expand.
2. Hold the breath for five seconds.
3. Exhale while counting backwards from eight. Visualize something. I visualize a hot air balloon dropping slowly as I count down to one.
Try putting a reminder into your electronic calendar reminding you to take a minute to breathe. Maybe use a sticky note and put it on your computer screen. In this world of overcrowded schedules and constant interruptions and stress, make sure you take the time out for life’s most basic need.