Belly Breath: A Simple Way to Relax
It may sound weird, but the simple act of breathing is an easy way to restore the body to a calm state. Belly breathing – or diaphragmatic breathing (breathing through your diaphragm) – is especially helpful. When you’re stressed out or anxious, a typical reaction is to start taking shorter breaths. Think about speaking in front of an audience, asking someone for a date, or any situation that might make you nervous. It’s likely that you held your breath, took short breaths, and you may have started to sweat or feel your heart thump. That’s a typical stress response.
By adulthood, this pattern of upper chest breathing may well turn into an unconscious habit. (Think about all the stressed-out adults you know.) Literally, you could shortchange your body with this inefficient way of circulating 02.
Here are three easy steps to boost your oxygen flow and de-stress:
1. Lie on your back and close your eyes. Bring awareness to your regular breathing pattern.
2. Rest your hands above your belly button with fingertips touching gently or place a book (like a phone book) on your belly.
3. Take a long inhale and notice your belly rise up as you fill your lower lungs. Exhale slowly. You’ll notice your belly sink back toward your spine as you release your breath.
Now, concentrate on taking deeper, longer breaths and let your exhale linger a moment or two longer than the inhales.
Do this breathing exercise for several minutes or longer and notice any changes. Better yet, practice this every day and before any situation that makes you nervous.
You can try variations of this exercise. Imagine that all the stress and tension is leaving your body with every exhale. Or visualize yourself on a warm beach or taking in an awesome mountaintop view while you breath in and out slowly. Soon you’ll feel more relaxed, grounded, and better able to take on new challenges or deal with daily hassles.
And guess what? Your breath is something you never leave home without. Just remember to use it.
Last reviewed May 2018.