- Mental Health»
- Stress Management
Taking Deep Breaths to Relieve Stress, Regain Mental Clarity, and Help Lose Belly Fat
Stress Free With Breathing
A very easy way to relieve stress, regain mental clarity, and help lose belly fat is to breathe. Breathing is an involuntary action that our bodies must do to survive, but it is also something that we can easily control. Many of us are not even aware of our breath, so take a few moments now to pay attention to your own. Did you notice that you were you holding your breath? Breathing shallow? Or were you taking nice slow deep breaths? Chances are if you are reading this article about stress relief or reducing belly fat, you were not breathing slow and deep. This article will give you a brief description on how deep breathing affects many facets of our well being.
When we are under stress, our breathing is typically very shallow. When this happens, the chest and lungs are constricted and the body is not taking in enough oxygen or expelling enough carbon dioxide, which can actually increase feelings of anxiety by producing physical ailments such as increased feelings of panic, fuzzy thinking, fatigue, and muscle stiffness. By breathing deeply and often, the diaphragm muscle and lungs expand, which triggers the relaxation response to help our body take in more oxygen and release carbon dioxide, which will help to eliminate the feelings of anxiety and fuzzy thinking, and will help the muscles relax.
Our adrenal glands produce more cortisol when we are under stress, and one negative effect of having higher and prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream is an increase in belly fat. Although cortisol is an important hormone which helps to regulate blood pressure and glucose metabolism, it is also secreted at higher levels during the bodies “flight or fight” response to stress. If we don’t allow our bodies to relax, our bodies do not return to normal and we are in a constant state of stress. Deep, regular breathing will help keep cortisol levels under control and relax the body after a stressful situation.
Follow these simple steps to learn what a really good deep breath feels like. Sit in a comfortable position which can be a crossed leg position on the floor, or on a chair sitting with your spine straight and both legs on the floor. Gently close your eyes and become aware of your breath. At this point, you may be amazed at how quickly and shallow your breaths are, and that your shoulders are reaching towards your ears. Keeping your eyes closed, relax your shoulders and take a deep inhalation through your nose. Inhale slowly, filling up your abdomen first, then your lungs and chest, which will slightly raise your shoulders. Then exhale by lowering your shoulders, emptying your lungs and chest, and then finally emptying your abdomen. Picture inflating and deflating a paper bag to help visualize the effect of the breath on your body. You can also place one hand on your abdomen and another hand on your chest to feel the breath working in your body. Repeat the deep inhalation and exhalation at least 4 times, or until you feel a sense of calm wash over you, and then breathe steady for several moments.
You should practice this breathing exercise several times during the day to help keep the mind and body in harmony, and stress free. If you find that you forget to breathe deeply, put sticky notes with the word “Breathe” on your refrigerator, mirrors or desk as a helpful reminder, or get in the habit of breathing deeply whenever you are at a stoplight. Once you are in the habit of breathing deeply and regularly, your mind and body will begin to relax and respond favorably.