How long since you were last told to take a deep breath? The action is synonymous with calming yourself down, cooling your jets and giving yourself a little mental space before having to make your next move. Similar to counting from 10 to 1, taking a deep breath is meant to allow us a little chill.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga or meditation class, taken a singing lesson or played a musical instrument I have little doubt you would have been told to breathe into your belly – filling yourself with air.
Shallow breathing, the type that makes our shoulders rise and fall, is not helpful – in fact it increases our anxiety and can raise the heart rate as our brain reacts to the stimuli of rapid breathing – danger – panic – adrenaline…RUN. Sending your brain into fight or flight through shallow breathing is the opposite of the result you were no doubt after by consciously breathing.
Researchers at Stanford have recently found a correlation with breathing and activity in higher order brain functions, and realised that alertness, attention, and stress were affected on a neurological level through taking a deep breath. This is pretty groundbreaking – it means there is a neurochemical reason why taking a deep breath helps our state of mind, which also means we can replicate a state of calm.
So, next time your brain is whirring into overdrive; focus, and breathe deep.
The Inside Story of How Slow Breathing Calms You Down on Psychology Today