Breathing is one of our most natural processes, but many people do it incorrectly. Those who feel under chronic stress tend to take rapid, shallow breathes. This results in the chest not expanding as much as it should, and the air only reaching the top of the lungs.
This process is called “chest” breathing. To figure out if you breath into your chest, place your right hand on your chest over your heart and your left hand on your abdomen. If your right hand rises first, you need to learn to breathe properly.
The greatest amount of blood flows in the lower lobes of your lungs. If air is only reaching the tops of your lungs, then oxygen is not transferring to your blood efficiently, limiting nutrient delivery.
You can train your body to breathe properly with practice. Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing is the practice of inhaling deep into your belly so oxygen can saturate your lower lungs. Greater expansion in your lung’s air pockets improves blood and lymph flow, and helps to reduce stress and decrease an inflammatory response.
Practice abdominal breathing as a meditative exercise twice a day or whenever you find your mind bogged down with upsetting thoughts or stress.
To do this, implement the following:
- Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen as you did previously. Take a deep breath so that the hand on your abdomen rises higher than the one on your chest. This tells you the diaphragm is pulling in air. Once your abdomen rises, breathe into your chest as well.
- Fully exhale, pushing all the air out of your lungs. Then take another slow deep breath, holding it for 5 seconds.
- Slowly exhale for an 8 count, and then repeat for 5 deep breaths in the same pattern.
Practicing abdominal breathing can result in decreased stress and greater energy. It’s a great way to get a quick pick up when afternoon energy is low or you are feeling particularly stressed about something. Overtime, you will train your body to breathe through the abdomen rather than the chest, improving your overall quality of daily breathing habits.
Do you have other ways to relieve stress when it triggers? Share in the comments below.