Breathe slow – live smart. You are going to be breathing anyway so why not breathe in a way that enhances your life?
How Our Emotions Affect Our Breath and Brain
How we feel affects how we breathe and think.
If we feel calm our breathing is slow and low in our abdomen and all of our brain is available to us and we are open to receiving and processing a wide range of information.
If we are focussed and working, our breath is regular and centred within the chest area and the brain is focussing on the task at hand and filtering everything else out.
If we are anxious or stressed our breath is fast and shallow and high in the chest. Much of our advanced human brain (where perspective, problem solving, mature processing, sense of self and values, and much informational memory) becomes disconnected and unavailable to us. The greater the distress, the less of the “human” brain we have available to us. Severe anxiety can leave us with only primitive brain and therefore very few options: fight, flight or freeze. Often not helpful in our modern day lives.
How Our Breath Affects Our Emotions and Brain
The above equation can be reversed: how we breathe affects how we feel and therefore think.
As soon as you start to experience anxiety you can deliberately slow your breathing pattern to create a feeling of calm. Your exhale is the most calming breath, so lengthening the outbreath into a long comfortable sigh is very soothing.
If you can control your breath you can control your emotions, calm yourself down, and as a result have the maximum use of your entire brain for problem solving and processing information. This is what you need to effectively deal with the challenges that have made you anxious in the first place.
When you can properly process information, your resulting behaviour is true to your beliefs and values rather than true to your current emotion. You don’t do or say anything that you wish you hadn’t with hindsight.
How to change your breathing
So how do you change your breathing pattern to create a feeling of calm?
You simply slow down your breathing – particularly your out breath. By doing this you can breath your way back to a feeling of calm.
This is easily done by gently sighing out. Humming softly does the same job. The aim is to double the length of the out breath in comparison to the in breath.
This slowing down of the breath can make us feel a bit woozy – not the desired outcome – so it is best to have 3 long out breaths and then allow the breath to normalise for a few breaths. Then another 3 long out sighs or hums. Repeat until you feel calm. Enjoy. Notice how you feel with each lovely long out breath. You may very quickly become aware of a softening of tense muscles (especially in the shoulder area), a general sense of release and calming, and the awareness that your initial emotion is no longer your boss. Result!
Once we learn that we can control our emotions by controlling our breath, our world can change so much for the better. Knowing that we can remain calm by keeping our breathing deep and slow means that we need never be afraid of ‘losing control’ or behaving in a way not congruent with who we know we are again.
Siobhan offers a free 45 minute introductory relaxation session to new clients interested in her therapies.