Let me anticipate your critical question: is it really possible that simply by
implementing breathing patterns, that I can actually alleviate anxiety and depression? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
For all those of you who currently suffer from such conditions, this simple answer may seem hard to believe. However, performing breathing exercises for anxiety, although being simple to do can actually tap into a very complex part of our body’s nervous system.
What is Really Happening During Deep Breathing?
Do you remember the last scary movie you watched? In the most terrifying scenes, not only your mind is reacting but also your body. Certain situations trigger the body’s “fight-or-flight” reaction. This ability to fight or run is actually a product of one part of your nervous system: the sympathetic nervous system.
Guess what? If this system has one component that controls intense activity,there must be a component that controls the opposite—the body at rest! The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) works to calm the body and can be manipulated using special breathing exercises for anxiety.
In our daily lives, we often do little to stimulate the PNS and as a consequence, our body is free to experience anxiety and stress.
Is Breathing Really Involuntary?
The body has a series of processes that are thankfully regulated automatically. These include digestion, glandular activity, the immune system, the cardiovascular system and breathing! Breathing has a very important difference, it can be controlled! Try bargaining with your immune system to get rid of that flu bug?
How Do The Exercises Work?
When you control how deeply you breathe, the speed of your breath and its rhythm, you are also altering the signals being sent to the brain from the respiratory system! When we control our breathing using certain studied techniques, we can take advantage of the communication between bodily systems and actually have a way to send proper messages directly to the brain! Imagine knowing that you hold the key to direct communication with the brain? Behavior and emotion can both be positively affected.
Let’s Try Some Breathing Exercises
- The Rule of Five
The “magic” number at the centre of the breathing rate range is five breaths
per minute. In a comfortable position try inhaling while counting five full seconds in your head. When you exhale, count five full seconds, again. Repeat. What this simple exercise is doing is tapping into you HRV or Heart Rate Variability. When we change this rate, our nervous system also begins to change. The goal is to have an increased HRV, which is linked to the body’s stress relief centre. Just by breathing in this way, you can improve your HRV by up to 10 times; which means your body will be ten times more capable of relieving anxiety naturally.
- Alter the Airflow
The next exercise that we are going to try involves purposely obstructing your airflow. There are a number of ways you can do this. 1. Try breathing through a straw. 2. Try breathing through clenched teeth. 3. Try breathing with the very tip of your tongue pressing on the inside of your front teeth. 4. Try breathing exclusively through the nose. This will provide the same sensation as deep meditation.
- Imaginative Breathing
This is a calming exercise where your will need to imagine the motion of the breath through your body. Here’s how to try. Picture your breath as it enters your body. Imagine that this breath is entering slowly and moving to the very top of your head. When you exhale, “see” the breath moving down your spine to the very base of your back. You can choose anywhere in the body for the breath to move as you inhale and exhale. This exercise calms the body while also slowing the rate of breathing. Whatever patter you begin, repeat it ten times before changing to other places in the body.
Where do these techniques come from?
Many of these techniques can be traced back to ancient forms of meditative chants, even to the practices of medieval monks. However, modern science has studied these techniques to determine which ones are actually effective. Make these steps a part of your daily routine and let these breathing exercises for anxiety start working for you!