Taking slow, deep breaths seems like such a simple act. You probably don’t give your breathing a second thought throughout the day. But when practiced with intention, proper deep breathing techniques can have profound benefits on your physical and mental health. This primal and potent self-healing tool has been used for thousands of years to counteract stress, promote relaxation, and improve well-being. Let’s explore the myriad perks of taking the time to breathe deeply.
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
One of the main benefits of deep breathing is its immediate calming effect on the body and mind. It activates the parasympathetic nervous system, signaling your brain and body that all is well so you can relax. This counters the adrenaline and cortisol released when you’re stressed or anxious. Deep breaths also increase circulation and provide tissues with enriching oxygen. Studies show controlled breathing lowers blood pressure, heart rate, and even cholesterol.
Practicing deep breathing has been found to reduce various types of pain, both acute and chronic. Slow, measured breaths help provide a point of focus to divert your mind from pain. The improved circulation also brings more oxygen to painful areas. For headaches, belly breathing helps relax the muscles in your head, neck, and shoulders that tense up and cause pain. Those with chronic lower back pain have reported relief through diaphragmatic breathing as well.
When you’re under chronic stress, your immune system suffers and becomes vulnerable to illnesses. Deep breathing helps counter the harmful physical effects of long-term stress when practiced regularly. More oxygen circulates to provide cells with needed fuel. Calming hormones are released that allow the immune system to function unencumbered. Even a short 5-10 minutes a day spent focusing on your breath strengthens your body’s ability to fight off germs and infections.
Struggling with insomnia or restless nights? Deep breathing before bed can help improve your sleep quality. The relaxing nature of slow measured breaths signals your body it’s time to wind down. Clearing your mind with a breathing meditation prevents it from racing with thoughts that keep you up. More oxygen circulates to your brain and muscles to relieve tension. Breathing techniques also help minimize anxiety, depression, and chronic pain which all disrupt sleep cycles.
Boosts Energy Levels
Feeling drained or sluggish? Deep breathing delivers a surge of invigorating oxygen throughout your body, countering low energy. It also improves circulation so your blood flows more efficiently. The calming effects help fight fatigue caused by chronic stress. Practicing 10-20 minutes of rejuvenating deep breaths can provide an energy boost any time of day when you need it. It also prepares your body for exercise by oxygenating tissues.
The rhythmic massage of your stomach and intestines during diaphragmatic breathing optimizes digestion in several ways. It stimulates the movement of food and waste through your GI tract to prevent issues like bloating, gas, and constipation. The abdominal region receives more blood flow which enhances nutrient absorption. Stress and anxiety hamper digestion, so the calming effects of deep breathing also support healthy gut function.
Finding it hard to concentrate lately? Deep breathing clears and focuses the mind, enhancing mental clarity and alertness. More oxygen energizes your brain cells and blood vessels. Built-up stress is purged from your mind as you fully exhale. The meditative nature provides a mental break from crowded thoughts so you can direct your attention. Employing 10 deep breaths before important tasks, projects, or tests can lead to greater focus.
Lowers Blood Pressure
As a tool to keep your heart healthy, purposeful deep breathing techniques have been proven to decrease blood pressure over time. Slow, measured breaths send signals to your brain that it’s safe to relax. This dilates blood vessels, increasing blood flow. With practice, the calming effects on your nervous system can be long-lasting, keeping hypertension in check. Breathing is free medicine with no side effects!
Helps Control Diabetes
For those managing diabetes, breathing exercises can assist with stabilizing blood sugar levels. Stress releases hormones that cause blood sugar spikes. Deep breathing counters this. The oxygen boost also helps glucose metabolize through cells efficiently. Per a Harvard study, diabetic patients who practiced daily breathing saw significant improvements in blood sugar levels within 3 months.
Making deep breathing a regular practice yields both immediate and long-term rewards. It’s a versatile tool you can do anywhere, anytime to calm your mind, relieve pain, improve focus, and protect wellness. The next time you notice yourself feeling stressed or run-down, pause and take 5 slow belly breaths.