A few weeks ago I was hanging out with my preschooler son watching “Blue’s Clues” on television. The whole episode centered on how to handle frustration. Throughout the show several characters learned and repeated the mantra, "Stop, breathe and think.” Later that same day I was feeling stressed out about something and those four words came to mind. I figured “What the heck? It worked for Blue and Steve!” I gave it a try and I felt a whole lot better, really really quickly.
Of the three things the “Blue’s Clues” characters and I were doing, I personally believe that taking a deep breath helped the most. In researching this topic even further, it turns out that this is correct. Studies have shown what many of us have known for years, deep breathing techniques can be extremely helpful in handling anxiety, depression and stress-related health conditions.
Before getting into the health benefits of deep breathing even more, let’s back up a bit and talk about the mechanics of breathing. You might be thinking “I breathe all day. I already know how to breathe just fine!” The next time you are feeling angry, stressed, too busy, overwhelmed, anxious, sad, or depressed, take a minute to notice how you are breathing. Most of us will tend to take shallow and fast breaths. Shallow breathing does not tend to bring a lot of oxygen into our bodies, and fast breathing has been linked to high blood pressure. So just because you know how to breathe doesn’t mean you know how to do it correctly.
Deep breathing is slower, and it involves using your diaphragm while breathing in deep breaths of air. Done correctly, your tummy will expand and not your chest.
Learning to breathe deeply is like a lot of other exercises. It takes a few practice sessions to figure out how to do it correctly but then once you get it down it will seem like second nature to you. Unlike exercises such as jumping jacks that you can’t exactly start doing in public whenever you want, deep breathing can be done anytime and anywhere.
The first few times you try deep breathing, find a quiet and comfy spot in the house so you can really focus on what you are doing.