3 Quick and Easy Deep Breathing Techniques to Manage Stress

deep breathing techniques

Contrary to a popular but essentially misguided belief, stress is not the enemy. Rather, it is one of the body’s natural built-in responses to danger—stress allows you, for a short duration, to run faster, leap farther, or carry objects that are heavier than what you can carry. The downside, however, is that stress—as a constant under-the-radar presence in our lives—can insidiously cause long-term damage to your well-being.

The upside: the effects of stress can be sufficiently and quickly mitigated by certain deep breathing techniques. In fact, the mere act of deep breathing has a direct effect on your entire body—from your internal organs (such as the stomach and liver), to your blood vessels, immune system, and the brain. And you can immediately enjoy some of the positive health effects of some easy-to-follow deep breathing techniques below.

1. Breathing through the belly

No, your belly did not magically sprout new nostrils that allow you to breathe through them. What we mean by “breathing through the belly” is simply getting the participation of the muscles consisting the belly in the act of deep breathing. This is one of the most basic deep breathing techniques, and can be performed quite simply. Find a comfortable place to sit on. Place a hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Breathe deeply through your nose, feeling how your belly pushes out your hand as you do so. Meanwhile, your chest should not move at all. Now, exhale through pursed lips—do it as if you were making a whistle. Feel your belly as it pushes out all the air. Repeat up to 10 times. Don’t hurry with each breath; find your natural breathing rhythm.

2. Breathing in the morning

Performing deep breathing techniques first thing in the morning is a significantly effective way to jump-start your day. You should do this as soon as you wake up, especially if you usually experience some stiffness of the muscles. Moreover, aside from the extra boost of oxygen, breathing deeply also clears up your lungs and breathing passages. Find a level surface to stand on (your bedroom is usually best). With slightly bent knees, lean forward from the waist and let your arms dangle at your sides. Slowly and deeply inhale as you return back to the standing position, and once you are fully standing up, hold your breath for a few seconds. Then as you bend forward again, exhale slowly. Repeat as many times you want.

3. Counted breathing

To be clear, deep breathing usually involves some amount of counting, but it is not hard and fast—we count only to keep the pace. But for practical reasons, let’s just call this “4/7/8 breathing technique.” You can do this either when sitting down or sitting up. As with belly breathing, you put one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe deeply and slowly while counting to 4, hold that same breathe while counting to 7, then exhale as you silently count to 8 (hence the “4/7/8” moniker). Breathe out all the air in your lungs. Repeat up to seven times, or as often as you need to feel calm and relaxed.

Deep breathing has a crucial role in meditation—it regulates the mental and physical processes involved in a single meditation session. For instance, regular meditation has been found to boost one’s levels of serotonin, an important neuro-chemical that directly influences one’s sense of well-being. Serotonin’s importance is better appreciated when looking at what happens in the body when there’s too little of this chemical: depression, insomnia, migraines, even obesity. Therefore, integrating these deep breathing techniques in a regular meditation regimen can significantly make your stress management much more effective.


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