Effects on health and some tips to improve your breathing 

Breathing is such a ‘natural’ part of our lives that we take it for granted and rarely think about it.  Yet  the quality of your breathing has a profound effect upon the state of your mental and physical well-being.  And many of us do not breath well. We develop bad habits.  For instance, in the interests of vanity and fashion young women may hold their stomachs in tightly.  As young men we are encouraged to hold our shoulders back, and stick out our chests.  Such postures lead to breathing that is shallow, confined to the chest. This limits the amount of oxygen being taken in to the blood via the lungs.  This in turn leads to faster breathing and possibly oxygen deficiency in the body.

Our lungs, however, extend down to our abdomen and are there to be filled with air with every breath.  Breathing deeply not only slows down your rate of breathing, it also improves the intake of oxygen into the body.  Which is not a bad thing for your overall health and well-being.

Being conscious of your breathing and deliberately slowing and deepening the breathing also has an extremely calming effect  both physically and mentally. When you relax eg just sitting quietly reading a book, or going off to sleep, your breathing naturally slows down and deepens.  It is one of the physiological processes that change as your body  relaxes  - others include a slowing down of your heart rate and a drop in blood pressure.  Unlike your heart rate and blood pressure, however, your breathing is under your conscious control.  So, when you are feeling stressed or anxious or panicy, if you consciously and deliberately take some deep breaths, you will calm down.

The trick is to remember AT THE TIME you are experiencing stress or panic, to respond by deepening your breathing.  To achieve this requires practice when you are feeling calm and unruffled.  The practice is this:  stand in front of a mirror and take 5 deep breaths (or 10, depends on the time you have.)  Look at yourself in the eye as you do so.  Say to yourself, out loud or in your head, ‘When I feel anxious/stressed/panicy/angry/tense (choose the best word that describes your feeling) I take deep breaths.’  Or ‘My response to anxiety etc is deep breaths.’  Or simply ‘Anxiety – deep breaths.’  Or any other words that appeal to you that express the same intention.  Do this every day and implant the suggestion in your unconscious mind. 

Focusing attention on your breathing – by which I mean being very aware of a sensation associated with your breathing eg the sound of your breath flowing in and out, or the movement in your chest and stomach, or the very subtle sensations around your nostrils as the air flows in and out -  brings your attention to what is happening here and now, in this present moment.   This helps you to stop the ‘what if’ thoughts that contribute to feelings of anxiety.  It is very difficult to focus on a sensation (what your sensing, here and now, right this minute) and think at the same time. 

And, briefly, what do we mean by deep breathing: deep breathing is breathing from the abdomen, using the muscles of the abdomen - that part of the body below the rib cage and above the stomach.  Imagine your stomach as a balloon. As you breath in the balloon expands (tummy out); as you breath out, balloon deflates (tummy in).  If you have developed bad breathing habits, you may have to concentrate a lot in order to change to a healthier habit.  This may help:  put your hands on your stomach and breath in, without worrying about ‘doing it right.’  Hold your breath for amoment. Now, push your stomach in as you exhale – as though you are pushing the air out by pushing in your stomach.  Then breath in and let your stomach come back ‘out.’  Push the air out again and repeat this sequence for four or five breaths, getting a ‘feel’ of the muscle movements associated with deeper breathing.  Then see if you can begin to use the ‘stomach’ muscles on their own to pull the air into your lungs and push it out.

For my clients who suffer from stress and anxiety and panic (and these are conditions that many, many, people experience and suffer from) I insist they practice deeper breathing because this on its own enables them to begin to manage their condition more effectively.  Which is the beginning of their road to full recovery.

Alan Armstrong
Clinical Hypnotherapist


Alan Armstrong

Penarth Natural Health Services
11 Bradenham Place
CF64 2AG

M. 07836 679128
E. Email Here

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