Breathing is an automatic action that sustains life.
On average, you inhale about 30,000 times a day without even realizing it (1).
But your breath also changes according to your mood and state of mind.For example, when you’re stressed, anxious, or afraid, your breathing may become quick and labored. It may even be hard to take a deep breath.
In these moments of distress, it can become very difficult to slow down your breath and get back into your normal breathing pattern.
In contrast, when you’re happy and relaxed, you don’t even notice your lung filling up with air every time you inhale.
That’s why healing practices like meditation and yoga teaches us to consciously slow down our breath and take control of our thoughts and emotions to let go of negative energy and tension with each exhalation. This allows practitioners to reach a calmer and happier state of existence as well as develop a deeper connection with their body (2).
Also, since conscious breathing can help you control your emotions, it has a positive effect on hormone secretions, metabolism, immune response, and nerve activity (3).
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Breathing Exercise For Anxiety
The following guided meditation will teach you how to turn breathing into the most relaxing exercise you can do.
Just find a calm, comfortable place for your practice and click play.
It Really Works
Scientists have recently taken interest in the areas of mindfulness and the benefits of meditation, but they’ve also taken a look at the way we breathe.
In fact, a joint study carried out by the University of Quebec and the University of Louvain took a look at how emotions affect breath (4).
The study, entitled “Respiratory Feedback in the Generation of Emotion”, separated volunteers into two groups:
The first group was asked to produce happiness, anger, calmness, and panic by remembering past events or imagining emotional scenarios.
For each emotion, scientist monitored the speed of breathing, location in the lungs, and amplitude.
They made the following conclusions:
- Panic was characterized by short, sharp breaths
- Anger created long forced breaths
- Calmness was characterized by slow, steady breaths
- Happiness created long inhalations and long exhalations
From these findings, they drew up a list of breathing instructions for the second group.
Group 2 was in the dark about the true purpose of the study, having been told that they were participating in a study of the cardiovascular impact of breathing styles.
They were asked to follow breathing instructions given by the researchers for 45 minutes. After the fact, participants were given a questionnaire in which they had to describe their emotional response to each of the 4 distinct breathing patterns.
Amazingly enough, the second group experienced feelings that matched up perfectly with the volunteers in the first group simply by mirroring their breathing. And so, researchers were able to determine that it is possible to alter your emotions through breathing alone.
Applying Breathing Exercises To Everyday Life
Anytime you feel overwhelmed or emotional, close your eyes and focus on your breath. Try to breathe deeply, filling your lungs to their capacity, pausing for a moment, and emptying all the air in your body. Repeat until your mind becomes clear and your can return to your task with focus and positivity.
Conscious breathing is a powerful tool, and it only takes a few minutes to do. You can even use your favorite breathing exercise at night to quiet your mind before bed.
As Amit Ray would say: “If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”(5).