As our bodies become accustomed to living in an anxious manner, our breathing will tend towards a permanent state of shallowness. So if we are living with constant stress at home or work, suffering anxiety or trauma, or even panic attacks, we may start to always breath with shallow breaths.
A recent study has now shown a link that indicates just how such a breathing style can affect our mood, and prevent us from feeling relaxed or at ease.
What the researchers discovered was a link between natural breathing rhythms (slower, deeper breathing) and activity in the cortex, amygdala, and hippocampal regions of the brain. That is, our thinking parts - where we are conscious, as well as our animal instincts of flight, fight or freeze. They are also the areas of the brain responsible for the production and release of serotonin and dopamine - both vital to enable an "at ease" mood. They also found the effect diminished when breathing was changed from breathing through the nose to through the mouth.
If our anxiety is causing shallow breathing, then slow deep breathing is capable of easing anxiety. Extraordinary aren't we!
Renowned wholistic medical practitioner Dr Raymond Weil is has developed a simple technique to assist.
The 4 - 7 - 8 breathing technique is as easy as:
- Breath out completely through the mouth, making a whooshing sound.
- Breathe in quietly through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Breath out completely through your mouth for a count of 8 making a whooshing sound.
- Repeat 3 times for a total of 4 breaths.
Dr. Weil recommends performing this twice a day.
It is also ideal to use before that stressful meeting, when getting angry or anxious, or even if you feel yourself moving into panic.
Bringing awareness to our breathing is one of the most powerful and easy ways to aid relaxation and to regulate anxiety. Simply being aware of breathing is often enough to significantly reduce anxious feelings. Each time you begin to feel anxious, angry, or stressed, try to become aware of that, and instead of focusing on the anxious or upsetting thoughts, focus immediately instead on your breathing. Is it shallow? Are your breaths short? Perhaps set a timer to go off every hour for a day and just notice your breathing.
The ability we have to influence our bodies in a positive way is a tremendous tool. As we strive to be happy and at ease in our lives, learning the tricks can really pay off!