10 Easy Breathing Techniques to Destress
We have all been told at some point in our life to just “take a deep breath”. Maybe it has helped you at some point, or maybe you took that as a sign to just calm down. However, breathing techniques actually do help calm and relax the body in times of distress.
- Science shows why regulating your breathing and practicing breathwork can improve mental health and stress levels
- 10 different ways to work on breathwork for different scenarios of stress or anxiety
- You can use various breathing techniques to stop a panic attack from happening when you first begin to feel signs
How Does Breathing Calm the Body?
Breathing calms down the body by sending warning signals to your brain that you need to relax. Specifically, taking deep breaths increases the supply of oxygen to your body, thus connecting with your parasympathetic nervous system in order to create these signals.
When stressed, you may realize you have an increased heart rate or high blood pressure that feels uncontrollable. Recognizing these signs and focusing on taking these deep breaths can work to lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and as a result improve overall mental and physical health.
The Science Behind It All
The science behind breathing in relation to mental health has been practiced for centuries among many different cultures and places. According to The Mayo Clinic, focused breath work increases alertness and enables your body to release toxins at a faster pace. Also, the increase in CO2 in the bloodstream when holding your breath for a while, allows the body to stimulate the vagus nerve which connects to the parasympathetic system, producing a calm and relaxed feeling.
When practicing mindfulness and recognizing slowing down your breath, the body sends signals to your brain and autonomic nervous system. This nervous system regulates body temperature and other involuntary bodily functions that can be affected by an increase in stress.
10 helpful breathing techniques and how to practice them
1. Belly Breathing
This belly breathing technique focuses on relieving stress and relaxing the body. This is a great technique if you just want to take a few moments to clear your head and gain perspective of the cause of your stress.
To do this:
- Sit or lay in a comfortable position
- Rest one hand on your stomach and another on your chest
- Take a deep breath through your nose and allow your stomach to push your hand and be careful not to let your chest move
- Breathe out through your mouth but try to make a small hole with your lips when you breathe out
- Repeat this 10 times or until you feel calm
2. Box Breathing
This technique focuses on increasing performance as well as concentration. It can also work as a stress reliever, as almost any breathing technique can. In order for this technique to accurately work you need to:
- Sit in an upright position
- Fully exhale
- Slowly inhale to a count of 4 until your lungs are at capacity
- Hold your breath for another count of 4
- Exhale to a count of 4 and repeat the process ten times or until you feel a difference in your body.
3. Mindful Breathing
This is probably one of the most basic, but easiest techniques for a quick fix to a disoriented and fast paced mind. This strategy uses meditation to help focus the mind and body.
To do this:
- Getting in a comfortable position and in a place with no distractions
- Relax your body and shake off any tension you may feel
- Focus on your breath
- If you notice you are breathing heavily or slowly, start to breath in for 5 seconds and exhale for an equal amount of time
This technique focuses more on learning how to recognize your breathing patterns to help you realize when you are stressed or unfocused.
4. Lion’s Breathing
Lions’ breathing assists with alleviating stress and anxiety, as well as improving sleep quality. This technique is constantly incorporated into yoga practices. It also can help clear your throat and promotes less tension in face and neck muscles.
To do this:
- Sit upright in a butterfly position
- Lean forward, setting your hands on your knees
- Inhale through your nose
- With you mouth opened wide, stick your tongue out and try to stretch it down to your chin
- Exhale forcefully and make a “ha” noise that you can feel coming from your stomach
- Repeat up to 7 times or own preference
5. Resonance Breathing
Resonance breathing has been scientifically tested and proven to improve heart rate, mood, and adaptation to stress. This technique does this by focusing our brains to our breath and learning how to control it in a way that brings full relaxation to the body.
To do this:
- It helps to have a calming noise, such as a rain or ocean waves sound tracks in the background
- Inhale for a count of five
- Hold for a count of 5
- Exhale for a count of five
The difference between resonance breathing and the other techniques is that instead of doing this just 7-10 times, you want to repeat this for a few minutes.
6. Pursed Lip Breathing
This specific technique helps to slow down your pace of breathing and can be used if you feel like you are starting to go into a panic attack.
To do this:
- Relax your body, especially your shoulders and neck
- Inhale through your nose two counts while keeping your mouth closed
- Create a small hole in your lips (like you’re about to whistle) and exhale for a count of four
- Repeat until relaxed or at least 10-20 times
7. 4-7-8 Breathing
Four, seven, what? This breathing technique ensures assisting your brain when you feel like you are in “fight or flight” mode for no serious reason. Using this technique calms the nervous system and helps fight off those unwanted worries.
To do this:
- Pick a comfortable position, either sitting upright or laying down
- Take a deep exhale and immediately close your lips
- Inhale through your nose for a count of four
- Hold your breath for five seconds
- Open your mouth and exhale loudly for a count of eight
- Repeat this process for a minimum of three minutes to get the best results
8. Equal Breathing
Another simple, yet effective breathing exercise for our mindful people! In this technique the goal is just to make your inhales and exhales the same time span. By doing this your breath becomes smoother, thus providing more balance and relaxation to your body.
To do this:
- Choose a comfortable upright position in a place with minimal to no distractions
- Inhale and exhale through your nose (not your mouth!) for an equal duration of time
- Try to add a pause or break between your inhales and exhales to improve the outcome of this technique
- Repeat for at least five minutes
9. Alternate Nostril Breathing
This breathing exercise is known to lower heart rate and even improve cardiovascular health!! This probably is one of the more complex techniques but definitely worth trying.
To do this:
- Start by raising your right hand to your nose while taking a deep inhale
- After you exhale place your thumb over your right nostril
- Inhale through your left nostril and then close your left nostril in order to exhale out of only your right nostril
- Repeat this for 5 minutes
10. Sitali Breath
This type of breath actually has the ability to lower your body temperature and relax your mind.
- Choose a comfortable upright position
- Either curl your tongue or purse your lips into a whistle hole
- Inhale deeply through your mouth
- Exhale all the air out through your nose
- Repeat for around 3-5 minutes
Practicing these easy breathing techniques can be a great start in working to improve your mental health and happiness. Try incorporating these techniques into a daily routine, and start to write down how you feel before and after you complete the work. Breathwork benefits the body and mind not only in the short term, but when practiced consistently and correctly, it has been proven to increase wellness and quality of happiness tremendously!
Written by Emma Carlson