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Just Breathe! Deep Breathing Boosts Health and Busts Stress

Updated on October 14, 2014
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Deep breaths every day are a quick, easy investment in better health

The importance of deep breathing, belly breathing, abdominal breathing--whatever you want to call it-- becomes clear once you realize that in 5 minutes a day it can change your life for the better. It's free, safe, easy, and one of the best possible things you can do for your health. Here, some thoughts on why & how to deep breathe for wellness, relaxation, and inner peace.

(photo via flickr cc ~ cropped for shape)

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I Should Have Paid More Attention In Lamaze

Like many people, I first heard about deep breathing as a stress and pain management tool when I was expecting my first baby and began taking childbirth classes. My husband and I did the exercises in class as best we could, but I can't say we totally got it. I was in workaholic mode at the time and had no clue how important stress management would soon become, not only for adjusting to parenthood but for the long, unpredictable adventure that is raising a family.

Only years later was I forced to learn how to deep breathe. Two things happened to nudge me along: The hubby and I decided to learn how to scuba dive, and we learned how important slow, relaxed breathing is for conserving the air in a scuba tank and getting the most out of a dive. "Never hold your breath" is a cardinal rule in scuba, and I realized that it's actually good advice for dry land, too! Often in tense or hurried moments, it's easy to hold your breath without even knowing it. And that's not ideal for physical or emotional health.

The other nudge came in the form of an anxious child--one of our twins, now 16. In trying to help him manage his anxiety, I researched relaxation techniques for children. One of the simplest appeared to be belly breathing. I bought a charming paperback book, A Boy and a Bear (see "Toolkit for an Anxious Kid," below), to read to my son at bedtime--and found myself following its prompts right along with him. Soon we both knew how to belly-breathe, and it felt really good.

(photo via flickr cc)

How and Why to Build Abdominal Breathing Into Your Day

A chiropractor explains the benefits of deep breathing, especially for those of us who work long hours at a computer, and explains how to do it.

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If Only I'd Known

As a child, I suffered from abdominal migraine symptoms. I realize now these were tension related, and if I'd known how to deep breathe as a kid, I might have spared myself much of the pain. I know because this technique has helped me cut abdominal and stomach pain way down as an adult.

(photo via flickr cc)

Toolkit for an anxious kid:

A Boy and a Bear: The Children's Relaxation Book
A Boy and a Bear: The Children's Relaxation Book

I have to admit, reading this story aloud to my son calmed me down, too.

 
Indigo Dreams: Relaxation and Stress Management Bedtime Stories for Children, Improve Sleep, Manage Stress and Anxiety
Indigo Dreams: Relaxation and Stress Management Bedtime Stories for Children, Improve Sleep, Manage Stress and Anxiety

A bit new-agey, perhaps, but helpful -- and someone else does the reading with this one...

 
Night Time!
Night Time!

One of the quieter (yet still interesting) albums from family-music hero Dan Zanes.

 
Wemberly Worried
Wemberly Worried

Any anxious child will relate to the endearing heroine of this story and take comfort in its "you're not alone" message.

 

Give it a try!

5 Easy Steps

1. Get in a comfortable position. Lying down is probably best while you're still learning. Close your eyes and focus on breathing.

2. Put your hands on your belly so you can feel it rise and fall.

3. Take a deep breath to a count of 4, through your mouth or nose. Feel your belly rise as it fills with air.

4. Pause for a moment, then exhale through your mouth for another count of 4. Feel your belly fall.

5. Pause again for a moment, then take the next breath.

Repeat this simple process for 10 minutes, or even 5 if that's all you have.

When to do it? Several times a day is awesome, but try starting with once. Bedtime is a natural fit, and this can help you sleep better. Or try it in the morning, like I often do, when you first wake up, to prepare for the day. You're already prone, so that saves a step. ;)

Once you've trained yourself and this technique is second nature, you can do it anytime. Stuck in traffic? Take a few belly breaths and you'll care a little bit less--I guarantee.

Resources: Stress & How to Manage It

Here are a few of my favorite links on the subject.

Have you used deep breathing techniqes like the simple one described here? Yoga, meditation, aerobic exercise, Ben & Jerry's ;) ? What helps you keep your cool in a stressful world?

How do you fight stress?

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    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      Have you ever heard of the Healing Breath workshops? They are wonderful.

    • verymary profile image
      Author

      Mary 4 years ago from Chicago area

      @TransplantedSoul: No, I haven't, but I will check them out for sure. Now that my most anxious kid is in adolescence, we all need some healing breaths around here!

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      Have you heard of the Healing Breath workshops? They sound interesting.

    • SarahDanial1 profile image

      SarahDanial1 4 years ago

      How funny that you mention Lamaze. I am constantly doing Lamaze breathing exercises for a quick calm-down! LOL! It truly does help.

    • Lareene profile image

      Lareene 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Excellent information thanks.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      Scubapro Mk25/a700 review -

      Scuba Regulator Reviews -

      Scubapro MK25/s600 review -

    • Diana Wenzel profile image

      Renaissance Woman 6 years ago from Colorado

      Really appreciate your lens and the goal that you have set for it. When I start to feel stressed, or when I cannot get to sleep, I've found that deep breathing makes such a difference. My best stress buster has always been movement -- walking, biking, running, etc. All of those things involve rhythmic breathing. It works... breathing.

    • JoyfulPamela2 profile image

      JoyfulPamela2 6 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      I encourage my music students to breathe deeply for better playing and singing, but it does have many health benefits, also!

    • PeterStillman profile image

      PeterStillman 7 years ago

      Hi everyone - I have just published an article on How To Handle Stress Effectively. If you are affected by stress, it helps to understand the cause and symptoms in order to find ways how to deal with it.

      I hope you will find it helpful as an additional read on the topic

      Have a great day

      Peter

    • profile image

      WriterBuzz 7 years ago

      Nice lens. I gave you a thumbs up, and hope that you continue to build lenses. I just made one Migraine Headaches that might interest you. Leave me a comment if you surf on by....

    • GiftsByDiana profile image

      Diana Burrell-Shipton 7 years ago from Hubbard, Ohio, USA

      Great lens !

      Yes, deep breathing is so important for health and sanity too .

      I also like herbal remedies like chamomile tea, a warm salt bath, a little lavender balm on my wrists and neck, and my lavender eye masks... to help me to relax.

      If I can, I like to have soft music in the background too.

      Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on my lens:

      https://hubpages.com/politics/How-to-be-a-good-nei

      Have a good day !

      Organically Yours,

      Diana

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Awesome lens!

      5* and lensroll to Defining Stress

      Lizzy

    • GramaBarb profile image

      GramaBarb 8 years ago from Vancouver

      Thanks for the reminder to breathe! My weakness is that I breathe too shallow.

    • MikkiGVee profile image

      MikkiGVee 8 years ago

      Great lens. I'm going to give these tips a try. 5*

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Great lens!

      5* and lensroll to Using Music to Lower Stress

      Lizzy

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 8 years ago from West Virginia

      I've just recently been reading about deep breathig and practicing it too. It's a definite plus.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 8 years ago from Western Mass

      i'm always saying, "breathe. i promise you'll feel better." :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I didn't take Lamaze either! I certainly don't do enough deep breathing - thanks for the reminder :)

    • profile image

      bdkz 8 years ago

      LOL...I didn't take Lamaze. I think I should have. Great lens!

    • Heather426 profile image

      Heather Burns 8 years ago from Wexford, Ireland

      I do yoga so that gets me breathing. Also years of meditation has helped me be aware of my breath. good work here!

    • EpicFarms profile image

      EpicFarms 8 years ago

      As I much as I adore Ben & Jerry's, it's far less fattening to step outside and hang out with the horses for a bit (there's something very soothing about just watching them graze that gives you a wonderful peaceful feeling :o) I'm definitely going to try this technique, it sounds great!

      Http://www.squidoo.com/ConnieCrankpot