Author : Lynda Benigno
When you were a child, you probably experienced a timeout. The purpose of a timeout is to give time to reflect and compose one’s demeanor. Whether or not timeouts are useful depends on who you ask. A little over 30 years of scientific research has garnered mixed results. What science does tell us, is taking the time to breathe does have positive benefits for people of all ages.
Taking conscious breaths throughout your day can be like hitting a reset button on your brain. Mindful breathing can improve cognitive functioning as well as mental and physical well-being. Slow deep breaths with your exhale slightly longer than your inhale, are stimulating for your parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is the rest and digest system. It is responsible for conserving energy as it slows heart rate, decreases blood pressure, regulates intestinal activity and induces relaxation response within the body. Byproducts of parasympathetic nervous system stimulation include increased intuition and sound decision making.
Various breathing techniques exist for therapeutic purposes. Conscious breathing is useful because it shifts your awareness, allowing your mind and body to pause and reset. If you are focused on your breath, you are not focusing on the stressors, and you begin to relax.
I find conscious breathing most effective at the start of the day or the end of the day. Aside from focusing on your breath, there are no rules. You can sit in a chair or lie down on your bed. If you are at work or in a social situation, there is no shame in excusing yourself and going to the bathroom. Rest your hands comfortably on your belly or at your sides. Close your eyes and inhale slowly and as deeply as you can, count to 4 in your head. Notice the feel of your hands moving upwards as your torso expands like a balloon. As you exhale count to 6, notice the sound of your breath and the gentle breeze produced as air leaves your lungs. If you become distracted by thoughts or noise in the environment that is okay, continue to breathe until you feel calm and relaxed. For some, visualization is more helpful than listening to and feeling their breath. If that is the case, think of something pleasant such as the beach while breathing.
Find what works for you and don't be afraid to make your own rules. Happy Breathing!
The opinions expressed in this article are of the author and not intended to diagnose, treat or cure mental or physical conditions. If you are struggling, please contact your healthcare provider, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or Stepping Stone Foundation at 330-577-6656.