We’ve all been breathing since the moment of our birth, but did you know that we’re often doing it wrong? While the way you typically breath will keep you alive, it’s often not as efficient at keeping you at peak performance. That’s because we all leave it up to our unconscious brain to keep up this basic function without thought, which is fine for the most part. However, if you take the time to think through your breathing and practice new ways to breathe, you can often alter how your brain and body work.
Depending on what you’re doing, or attempting to do, you may need to alter your breathing in order to achieve it. Try one of these techniques the next time you need to be more alert or you need to calm down.
Whether you’re struggling to wake up in the morning, hitting that afternoon lull, or sitting through some long boring presentation that has you nodding off, instead of immediately reaching for a caffeine boost, try changing your breath. Take very quick, shallow breaths in and out through your nose for about 20-30 seconds. Think of a child getting ready to cry or throw a tantrum. Those short fast breaths stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, working to get your blood pumping and make you more alert.
If you’re trying to calm down after a busy day and fall asleep, or just find a sense of calm in a stressful situation, a few deep breaths can help. While we often think we know how to take deep breaths, you may not be giving your lungs enough credit. Sit or lie still and take a full, deep breath until you see your stomach rise, then release slowly. Repeat and continue for at least 2-3 minutes, being sure that your stomach rises fully with each inhale. The exhale should take about twice as long as the inhale. This deep, diaphragmatic breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, lowering blood pressure, and calming the body and mind.
Taking just a little bit of time to focus and concentrate on HOW you’re breathing can alter how your body and mind function in a variety of situations. Next time you need to wake up or calm down, try these breath exercises and see the difference for yourself.