Why is breathing important and how to breathe?
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” Amit Ray
Breathing is something we do as much as 30,000 times a day without taking a moment to consider its importance. We take for granted the steady in and out of our breath; whilst it remains constant, we simply plod along with our day. When our breathing becomes interrupted or exaggerated, it is a clear sign that our body and our mind are in distress.
When we are scared, anxious, or in pain, our breathing accelerates and we lose track of ourselves in that moment. The feeling leads you to wish for nothing more than your slow, steady breath again. Once the moment passes, however, we are prone to returning to normalcy without a moment’s thought about how we could prevent the situation from happening again. But if we did take the time to ask this question, the answer would be found in our ability to control our breathing.
Being able to control this vital function gives us power over our own thoughts and feelings. We can reach a calmer and happier state of existence as we take the time to understand the link between our bodies and minds as a natural pairing, rather than polar opposites.
This ancient wisdom relies on more than anecdotal evidence. A study undertaken by Dr. Pierre Philippot from the Universite de Louvain investigated the link between emotion and breathing (1).
The participants of the study were divided into two separate groups and asked to undertake two different tasks.
The first group was asked to bring on feelings of panic, anger, calmness, and happiness by only changing their breathing pattern. They then wrote down how they did it. It was found that every participant used the exact same breathing pattern to elicit each emotion:
Panic – short, sharp breaths
Anger – long, forced breaths
Calmness – slow, steady breaths
Happiness – long inhalations and long exhalations
Thus, the first group showed the connection between the emotion and breathing patterns as well as the universality of this correlation.
The second group was asked to follow for 45 minutes the breathing patterns that the previous group had uncovered and write down the emotion they felt whilst breathing in that manner. With no prior knowledge of the other group’s results, the second group experienced feelings that matched perfectly with the participants in the first group simply by mirroring their breathing. The link between breathing patterns and emotions is now a scientific truth.
With this newfound knowledge, it becomes possible to handle difficult emotions by altering the way you breathe. During moments in life when negative emotions such as fear, anger, and anxiety become overwhelming, an alteration in the pace and depth of inhalations can have a profound effect on your emotional well-being.
Taking the time to understand the way your body and mind are linked through respiration is at the heart of reinforcing and maintaining a positive life. There is a multitude of breathing exercises as well as meditation and yoga techniques that can improve your emotional health. However, learning how to take slow, deep breaths even in the midst of a crisis should always be the aim.
To begin learning how to do this, you must first alter your perception of breathing. Do not consider breathing a dull automatic process. Inhaling and exhaling are only natural processes to the living, and you should celebrate that fact that you are alive every day. When your breathing is at its most relaxed it is evidence that you are happy and healthy. Remember the feeling as a point of reference which you would wish to return to when your breathing is affected by negative emotions.
- Take a moment now to place the feet on the ground and sit with the back straight
- Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth
- Breathe in for 6 counts now through the nose
- Then hold for 2 counts
- Then breathe out through the nose for 6 counts.
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