Often we are rushing about throughout the day and pay little attention to our breathing. When we are under pressure or focusing on tasks we may find ourselves suddenly taking in a deep gulp of air, or sighing deeply – these could be signs you are not taking time to take in slow, deep breaths.
Particularly when we feel anxious it can be helpful to pause and slow our breathing down, this can help us feel more relaxed. But how do we know when we are breathing deeply or shallowly?
When we are breathing shallowly we notice only our chest rise and fall as we breathe in and breathe out. When we take a deep breath we are filling our lungs up completely, this means we should notice our abdomen expand out as we take air in.
Tip - We can check we are breathing deeply (and correctly) by placing one hand on our chest and one on our stomach to see what happens when we take a shallow or a deep breath in.
Once you know the difference between breathing deeply and shallowly you are ready to practise deep breathing in 5 simple steps…
1. Try to sit (or stand) comfortably, with a straight back and close your eyes if you like, 2. Take one deep breath in slowly through your nose, 3. Hold this breath for 2 seconds, 4. Then slowly exhale through your mouth, 5. Repeat this, just spending a few minutes focusing on your breathing.
I love this relaxation technique as it is short, simple and can be done anywhere without anyone necessarily noticing (you will just look like you are breathing!).
For example, after a rush to get onto the tube in the morning, taking a few deep breaths while we hold on to the train handrail can be a good way to relax before getting into work. Or while at work, if something stressful happens we can take a few deep breaths siting at our desk, standing or walking. No one is going to ask ‘why are you breathing?’
Remember relaxation is a skill – we must train our bodies to become accustomed to it.
Deep breathing is a mini relaxation exercise, however if you plan to practise relaxation techniques two times a day there are plenty of other relaxation exercises for you to test out. There of my favourites are:
Deep breathing technique: I love this relaxation technique as it is short, simple and can be done anywhere.
Imagery exercise: This short relaxation exercise helps us take a time-out from any worries and anxieties.
Progressive muscle relaxation: Progressive muscles relaxation allows all of the muscles in your body to feel relaxed and free of tension, by progressively tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups in your body. Very often when we are stressed or anxious, we subconsciously tense our muscles – this can lead to physical tension in our body, and cause or worsen headaches, stomach aches or other aches and pains.
"Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths". Etty Hillesum