We breathe somewhere around 20,000 times each day. So now ask yourself how many of those breaths are you aware of? And how many of those are with a long, complete exhale? If your answer is less than 10, pause, take 3 slow breaths, and read on for two breathing techniques to help you breathe deeper (and slower).
Our breath is unique in that it is something that is involuntary, but can also easily be made voluntary. This provides one of the best opportunities to tap into our body's stress response system. When we are unaware of our breath, we typically have a longer inhale and shorter exhale and while this is natural, if we never take time to slow down this can ever so slightly keep us tapped into our sympathetic nervous system, our "fight, flight or freeze" system. By lengthening the exhale and slowing the pace of the breath, we tap into our parasympathetic nervous system, our "feed and breed" or "rest and digest" system. The parasympathetic nervous system controls much of our healing, rest, digestion, reproduction and sex drive (in part), and the overall functioning of our internal organs.
If this sounds like magic and something you need more of, try these two breathing techniques for 1-5 minutes once a day to start. You can then use these techniques throughout the day before a stressful meeting or conversation, when you're in traffic or just feeling on edge, or right before bed. Try it out and see what kind of magic you can create in your mind and body.
I have no affiliation with this app (relax: stress & anxiety relief), I just love the simplicity and effectiveness of it. I change it to the classic version in settings to control the timer more specifically and use the 1:2 ratio and recommend people start with 3 (giving you a 3 second inhale and a 6 second exhale), but make it work for you. This is a great way to clear your mind at any time of day or night, and has been especially useful for me when I wake up in the middle of the night with an active mind.
If this piques your interest and you want to learn more about meditation click here.