In the past decade as a full-time Consulting Hypnotist (read: Hypnotherapist), I discovered that the majority of the population has no idea how to properly release negative emotions with deep breathing. Everyone knows they should take some deep breaths to calm down, but rarely are they aware that there is a proper method to this.
Even myself, before I learnt otherwise, used to just take some deep breaths in, mostly into my upper chest, they were quick, "deep" breaths into my upper chest. My shoulders would even rise up, proving I was taking a deep breath as instructed. But I rarely felt better afterwards.
It turns out I was dong it ALL WRONG. The secret to reducing stress and anxiety with deep breathing, is to make use of your lungs in their entirety. And to breathe SLOW, with some well placed pauses.
Breathing deeply into the belly engages the diaphragm. This in turn stimulates the vagus system which releases the physical manifestation of the flight/fight response, which then lets you feel calmer and more able to focus.
Follow the steps below to learn how to breathe your way to calmness, there's even a short video you can follow along at the bottom of this post!
List of Steps
Step 1 - Learn to breathe
To engage in proper deep breathing, take one of your hands and place it gently on your belly. When you take in a nice deep breathe, imagine that you are pulling the air into the lower half of your lungs. If you have done this correctly, the hand resting on your belly should raise upwards slightly as you inhale. If your belly and hand do not move at all, this means you are only breathing into your upper lungs which means you'll need some more practice.
Once you've figured out how to breathe into your belly, move over to step #2
Step 2 - Slow Down
Usually we breathe pretty quickly and shallowly when we're stressed, now it's time to slow that rate which will help you to calm down. Try counting to 4 on the inhalation, then counting to 4 again on the exhalation. Then on each round, try slowing the pace of counting slightly, which will then cause the exhalation and inhalation to slow down as well.
Step 3 - Pause at the bottom (or the Top)
Once you've slowed down your rate of breathing, let's start adding in a slight pause in the space between when you fully finish your exhalation but before you inhale again. If you would like you can also add a pause at the height of the inhalation (just before you exhale again).
To make it even more effective, try counting to 4 during the pause(s).
Do Better With Visuals Aids? Me too!
Last summer I purchased a smart-watch that happened to have an app to help me slow down my breathing. The app also tracks my heart rate before and after the 2 minute exercise, which I discovered was always lower after the 2 minutes were up. I made a little video so you can also get the benefit.
Just click on the play button and follow along with the circle.