We are often told to “take a deep breath” but did you know there is right way to breathe? Oddly enough I was in college before I learned that I was doing it wrong. I mean air had obviously been getting in since I was still here…so how was I doing it wrong?
The truth is I was making a very common mistake. Have you ever paid attention to how your chest rises and falls while you’re breathing? Well, that’s what’s wrong. If your chest alone is showing movement that is a sign that your breathing is shallow. Breathing should happen below the area of the chest and using the diaphragm.
The first time I tried this it actually felt pretty foreign so I will explain it the best way I can muster. Imagine that inside your belly, directly behind your belly button, there is a deflated balloon. Place your hand flat against your belly button. Make sure to breathe in and out through your nose. As you breathe in your goal should be to move your hand away from your body and feel your stomach rise. Think about “inflating” that balloon we talked about earlier until it is full. As you breathe out your goal should be to feel your hand come in toward your body. You will use your abdominal muscles to press and “deflate” the balloon completely. With some practice this will feel more natural.
Focusing on our breathing and doing it correctly has many benefits. The most readily noticeable is the calming effect it has on us. When we breathe deeply our airways and blood vessels relax making the job our heart does for us less strenuous. Shallow breathing increases stress, muscle tension, and interferes with proper sleep. Learning to breathe deeply and practicing regularly helps us reverse these problems and greatly increases overall wellness. Now that’s a breath of fresh air!
Empower Behavioral Health BLOG Series
By Heather Gibbon