The Power of Breathing to Reduce Stress
With each breath we nourish our bodies, bring necessary oxygen to our organs and muscles and make life itself possible. Generally, we are unconscious of the ongoing rhythm of our breathing and often it is only when we have difficulty breathing that we pay it any attention.
But this fundamental act of breathing is not only necessary to life, it is also a powerful tool in connecting to our sense of calm and centeredness. Through breathing we can connect to our bodies, our own internal rhythms and the experience of being alive.
Breathing is with us every moment of every day. When we learn to breathe to calm and center ourselves, it becomes a tool that we are never without.
- Focus your attention on your breathing at different intervals through the day. You may set a reminder in your calendar to check in with your breathing every 90 minutes or you may want to identify certain signals, such as before a meal or whenever you get a cup of coffee or tea, as reminders to focus on your breathing.
- When you focus on your breathing, don’t try to alter it in any way. Simply bring your attention to your breath and see what happens.
- Notice whether your attention wanders or if you become lost in thoughts. If this happens, gently return your focus to your breathing and notice again what happens.
- It may be helpful to anchor your attention in certain physical sensations. You can feel your breath coming in through your nostrils, traveling down into your lungs and expanding your chest and belly, resting or pausing briefly and then leaving your body, with a contraction in your chest and belly.
- Try to be aware of your breathing and feel the sensations of breathing without attempting to change it or expecting it to change how you are feeling. Focusing on your breathing can be relaxing and calming, but, interestingly, breathing with the expectation of calming yourself can pull your attention away and have the opposite effect.
Keep your attention on your breath for two to three minutes with eyes open or closed. As your mind wanders to other things, notice and gently bring it back.
You can find more strategies to improve how you feel in my new book, “The Stress Response,” and by clicking here to sign up for more of my tips and here for podcasts using DBT strategies to improve how you feel.
Woman at the beach photo available from Shutterstock.
Matta, C. (2012). The Power of Breathing to Reduce Stress. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 3, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/dbt/2012/06/the-power-of-breathing-to-reduce-stress/