Breathing for Calm

Reduce Anxiety

Reduce Anxiety

Our breath is a something we always have with us (hopefully), and it can be accessed and utilized in diverse ways to achieve different mental and physiological states. There is a myriad of different breathing techniques available out there to try. Box-breathing, Alternate-Nostril breathing, Sama Vritti and even the “Tummo” method recently popularized by “The Iceman” Wim Hof to increase alertness by making more adrenaline available in the body.
However, in this post, I would like to asquint you with a simple, empirically proven method to induce a state of calm. First, let us cover what efficient breathing is like.
Breathe with your belly, also known as “Diaphragmatic” breathing. Proper breathing starts in the nose and then moves to extend your belly allowing the diaphragm to contract. In turn your lungs expand allowing them to fill with air; then as your diaphragm relaxes, air gets pushed out and your belly retracts.
Diaphragmic breathing is different than chest breathing where we tend to use our chest and throat muscles to bring in air. You can tell if you are chest breathing; your shoulders will rise and fall with each breath and your belly will not move much. With belly breathing your tummy will extend and contract while your shoulders stay still, a more efficient way of moving air.
Now for the interesting part. To induce a state of calm, exhale for longer than you inhale; breathe in for a count of three and subsequently breathe out slowly with intention for a count of five. I recommend repeating this cycle ten times in a session. Even after two or three breath cycles you cannot help but feel calmer.
What makes this kind of breathing so calming? When your exhale is even a few counts longer than your inhale, the vagus nerve, a prominent neuropathway connecting the diaphragm to the brain, sends out a signal to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for preparing the body for rest.
Try for several sessions a day especially when first waking and when preparing for sleep. This technique can be done anywhere-anytime, in traffic to reduce frustration, when our minds become busy with unhelpful ruminations, and even covertly while attending stressful meetings.
Enjoy!