How Your Breathing Affects Your Mental Health
Breathe in, Breathe out
Our breath plays a vital role in our lives, particularly in the quality of life we live. Most of us breathe on autopilot, not realizing the effect that a conscious breathing practice can have on our bodies, brains and health. When we’re stressed, anxious or upset, we begin taking shallow breaths, which negatively affects the autonomic nervous system and keeps oxygen from our brains. So, what can we do to retrain our breath? Let’s first take a look at what the breath does.
What’s happening to your brain when you breathe
Inhaling deeply raises our heart rate. Exhaling slowly lowers our heart rate. Doing this repeatedly naturally aligns our heart and brain, which calms us, releases endorphins, increases concentration and lowers inflammation in the body. Deep breaths have also been shown to have a grounding effect, bringing us back to our center. So, how do we use the moments in our lives to mindfully enrich our breathing?
Catch your breath
As you’re reading this, take a moment to breathe deeply through your nose, expanding your diaphragm, and release your breath slowly through your mouth. The amount of oxygen you just sent to your brain is stirring up a cocktail of healthy chemicals that are cleansing the cells in your body. Taking a deep breath is the easy part – remembering to breathe deeply takes conscious practice. We know it’s healthy, and we want to be more mindful of it. So, how do we start? How can we use the moments in our lives to remember to breathe?
First things first
Remember: when you feel stressed, anxious or upset, breathing deeply and oxygenating your body should be your first priority. Stressful moments should be a launchpad into your breathwork. An oxygenated brain can operate optimally, make smarter decisions, and is less prone to negative emotional reactions. Being mindful of your stressors can help you realize when your breathing is compromised. Get to know the way you breathe and watch how you react – mindfully choose to breathe deeply. Over time, you’ll create new habits in the way you react to your stressors. Let’s talk about some practical breathing exercises that you can start today!
One of our favorite breathing exercises is called Box Breathing. Try it like this: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and slowly breathe out for 4 seconds. Do this for about 4 minutes at a time, if you can. This breathing technique rhythmically syncs your heart and brain, heightens performance and focus, and is used by law enforcement, athletes, nurses and even the Navy SEALs! Now, what’s the best way to build a healthy breathing habit?
Oxygenate with Soaak
Make a habit of deep and mindful breathing with Soaak’s 21-Day breathwork program, “Breathe In with Ali Levine.” For 21 days, you’ll receive Mindful Intention messages written by breathwork coach, Ali Levine, along with deep dives to learn more about breathing deeply. It takes 21 days to build a habit – so start cultivating the practice of deep, mindful breathing today! Remember: the more we breathe deeply, the more we take control of our lives.