Breathing to reduce stress
Did you know that focused deep breathing can be an effective (and very easy!) way to reduce stress?
There is something naturally calming about just sitting and listening to your breath as you breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
While focusing on the sensations of your breath, strive to let go of any thoughts or emotions that are currently running through your mind and body. One of the key words here is ‘through’ – rather than trying to stop thoughts or reject them, allow them to pass through your mind. Release them rather than grabbing onto them and worrying.
Focusing on your breathing is a simple mindfulness technique to learn and will help you deal with any type of stress.
Today we explore the WHY of breathing in through your nose, rather than your mouth, and also look at Square Breathing as a stress-reducing breathing method.
Breathe in through your nose
Breathing through your nose, not your mouth, is one of the simplest things you can do for your health.
Did you ever wonder WHY your PT, your yoga teacher and almost every athletic or sports coach tells you to breathe through your nose?
The myriad of reasons might surprise you!
Firstly, as it relates to stress, the sinuses release nitric oxide when you breathe through your nose. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the blood vessels and lowers blood pressure. Blood flows more easily and the heart doesn’t have to work so hard, allowing the body to operate in a more relaxed state.
Your nose is also your first line of defence against allergens and pathogens – helping you to stay well and healthy. This in itself helps reduce stress – we all know how hard it is to manage everything when we are not well.
Mouth breathing doesn't offer the same benefits, it can contribute to sleep problems and high blood pressure. If you discover you've gotten in the habit of breathing through your mouth, don’t worry - you can remedy the situation. Make time, even just for ten minutes each day, for breathing exercises and nasal breathing will start to become automatic.
Reducing stress through Square Breathing
Square breathing can change your energy, connect you more deeply with your body, calm your nervous system, and decrease stress.
How to Square Breathe
Begin by slowly fully exhaling all of your breath.
Then, gently inhale through your nose to a slow count of 4.
Hold at the top of the breath for a count of 4.
Then gently exhale through your mouth for a count of 4
At the bottom of the breath, pause and hold for the count of 4
You will soon find yourself in a soothing rhythm of counting to four at each stage and smoothly progressing through all four stages. Repeat for as long as you have or need.
Square breathing can be useful in many situations, including trying to sleep, calming yourself, dealing with overwhelm, helping your creativity to flow, when making decisions and when meditating.
One of the great things about Square Breathing is that you can do it anywhere. Practice it on the train, at work in a meeting, or when watching Netflix. It’s important to practice Square Breathing when you are not stressed, so that it is a familiar tool you can call on when you are.It’s very simple – 4 in, hold for 4, 4 out, hold for 4, repeat – but can make the world of difference to your ability to mange stress.