“When you feel life is out of focus, always return to the basic of life. Breathing. No breath, no life.”~Mr. Miyagi, The Karate Kid
Everyone experiences it to varying degrees.
I myself have been battling anxiety (an acute form of stress) since early childhood.
For years I was unable to efficiently manage the chronic tension and overwhelm that left me with symptoms like brain fog, inability to focus, low energy, a weakened immune system, inflammation, digestive troubles, and insomnia.
In an effort to calm and soothe myself I would reach outwardly for things like food, alcohol, social media, etc.
While these things provided brief momentary relief, their effects were short-lived and so I was often forced to keep returning to these things to help soothe my distress and pain.
Sick of being caught in a vicious cycle, I sought out other natural alternatives to help me manage my emotions and mind.
It turns out that something as overlooked and underused as our own breath can be a potent stress-busting tool… If we know how to use it properly.
Increase Your Inner Calm
It may seem too simple or too good to be true, but various studies and researchers agree that incorporating a simple 5-minute breathing practice to your day can help you increase inner calm while reducing the destructive effects of the stress response.
Because slow, conscious belly breathing actually sends safety signals to your body and brain that activates the soothing, relaxing, and regenerating part of your nervous system.
This is because our mental/emotional state and our breath are intimately interconnected in what I like to call the Breath-Emotion Loop.
This means that changing one impacts the other and vice versa.
Think about it this way:
1. Our emotions and thoughts influence our breathing rhythm.
Next time you feel stressed, frustrated, or overwhelmed pay attention to your breathing pattern. You’ll probably notice it’s short, shallow, and quick.
Then notice your breathing next time you feel calm, safe, deep in concentration, or at ease. Notice it’ll probably be slower, longer, and even deeper.
2. Our breathing rhythm can influence our mental/emotional state.
If you were to start breathing rapidly taking short and shallow breaths you’ll likely start feeling either awake and alert, or anxious and on guard.
And so, if you begin breathing slowly and deeply you will most probably begin to feel less uneasy and more relaxed.
But this isn’t a magic pill; consistency and commitment are required.
Don’t expect results after just one session just like you wouldn’t expect a six pack after just one workout session.
But hey, you only need to commit to 5 minutes a day… That’s only 300 seconds out of 86,400 seconds a day!
How to Increase Your Inner Calm in Under 5 Minutes
Here is a simple yet proven 5-Minute Breathwork practice to help get you started.
This practice consists of three steps:
You’ll notice that our exhale is much longer than our inhale.
This is because it’s been shown that longer exhales help to activate that soothing, relaxing, and regenerating part of your nervous system.
HOW TO DO SO?
1. Sit upright and comfortably.
2. Keep your mouth closed the entire time and breathe only through your nose.
3. With each inhale, expand your lower belly outwardly as your lungs fill with air. (This also helps to activate the soothing nervous system branch.)
4. With each exhale, contract your lower belly inwardly towards your spine as your lungs empty of air.
5. Inhale for 4 counts.
6. Hold for 8 counts.
7. Exhale for 12 counts.
8. Repeat steps 5-7 for a minimum of 13 rounds. (This is just over 5 minutes.)