By Annette Brooks
The beautiful thing about controlled breathing is it can calm the torrent of thoughts racing through your mind and relieve any tension, negativity, anxiety, and stress they create. It enables you achieve mindfulness and focus on the here and now without judgment and without attachment to the moment.
Take a deep breath.” You’ve likely heard this when someone is about to deliver bad news or if you’re in an agitated state, but why? Without getting too scientific, controlled, focused breathing signals your brain to calm down and relax. In fact, it can relieve stress and anxiety, lower your blood pressure, help with digestion, and may even boost your immune system. Plus, you can practice controlled breathing almost anywhere—in your vehicle, in the office, while waiting in line, or when you take a break from the Internet. Are you ready to try it out?
Controlled Breathing in Its Simplest Form
Controlled breathing can be as basic as focusing on breathing deeply, slowly, and naturally, rhythmically inhaling and exhaling. Sit straight with good but not rigid posture. Relax your shoulders and jaw (keeping your mouth closed without tension or pressure on the jaw joint) then take several slow, deep breaths in and out through your nose if possible. Notice how your body feels. If there are tense spots, relax those muscles then bring your awareness back to your breath. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the sensations, thoughts, or feelings then gently let them go and guide your attention back to breathing.
How did you feel while doing this? Pretty wonderful, right? Check out the three easy breathing techniques that follow to expand your controlled breathing repertoire.
Techniques Practically Anyone Can Do
Equal breathing is similar to the basic controlled breathing above, but there’s some counting involved. Inhale and exhale through your nose for four counts each. Once you get this down, try six to eight counts per breath, both in and out.
The 4-7-8 technique aims to reduce anxiety and help you get to sleep. Start by slightly parting your lips part and making whooshing sound as you exhale through your mouth. Next, close your lips and inhale through your nose as you mentally count to four. Hold your breath for seven seconds then exhale through parted lips for eight seconds. Repeat a few times.
The 7-11 technique can calm your mind and lower blood pressure. Slowly breathe in from your lower diaphragm, inhaling slowly for seven seconds. Then slowly exhale, counting to 11. You should feel your shoulders and neck relaxing. Repeat several times. If you want to work your way up to 7-11, reduce the count to breathing in for three and out for five counts.
Feel the Difference
Whether you use a mix of these techniques, prefer one over the other, or choose one of the many different methods found online, practicing daily controlled breathing feels good. And whenever you feel tension, anxiety, stress, panic, or anger welling up, use it as a tool to stay calm.