3 breathing exercises to boost your mood
We breathe on average 20,000 times a day and often every one can go unnoticed — even though it can calm us in times of stress, give us energy when feeling sleepy and help us focus and find clarity and inspiration.
We share the same air, yet our breath pattern (the way in which we breathe) is as unique as our thumbprint.
Those of us who habitually overuse the upper chest muscles to breathe, which sees the stomach suck in and the chest rise with every breath, can often feel anxious and spend a lot of time overthinking and overanalysing. Those who deep belly breathe, where the stomach rises on the inhale but the chest doesn’t move freely, can often feel low in mood and energy. There are also people who hold their breath while typing, scrolling, working which can often lead to dizziness, tiredness and anxiety.
Breathing is the only system of the body which is both automatic and a system we can change to shift the way we feel. It’s free, can be used anywhere, and it doesn’t take long to reap the benefits. Sometimes just a few breaths can change the way we feel.
Here are founder of The Breathing Room Aimee Harley’s three top tips for taking control of your breath:
1. Transformational Breath Practice
For: Boosting energy, clearing negative thinking, helping process unwanted emotions, lifting mood
How: You may get a dry throat when you practice this for the first time as this is a mouth breath. You can also practice this through the nose but, to reap all the benefits, an open mouth practice is best. Prop yourself up on the bed or on a yoga mat with cushions or pillows to support your back and neck at a semi-reclined angle so your chest is higher than your legs. Make sure you are warm and comfortable, and that your head and neck are properly supported. Have your hands face down on your lower abdomen, a few inches below the navel. Relax the jaw and open the mouth wide (this can be tricky if there is tension in the jaw so open wider than you think is wide!) and take a deep inhalation – the belly should rise on the inhalation.
N.B If you find it difficult for the belly to rise on the inhalation and it sucks inwards on the inhalation (which causes the chest to rise) then it would be wise to get some guidance from a breath coach before you go further with this exercise as it’s paramount the diaphragm is activated on the inhale and the belly rises.
Allow the exhale to leave as a quick short sigh. Keep all your focus on the inhalation. Inhalation should be about three times as long as the exhalation. Exhalation should be a quiet and relaxed. Then start connecting the breath with no pauses between breaths.
Repeat for between three to five minutes and be aware of any physical sensations in the body. Rest for one minute as you return to a normal breathing pattern – breathing through the nose.
2. AcuBreathe (a.k.a acupressure and breath)
For: Activating the rest and digest system, focusing the mind on the present moment, opening up the diaphragm, easing stress
How: This is a super quick calmer for those all too stressful times or if you get twitchy while queuing or waiting. Hold your left hand with your right hand with the right thumb applying pressure to the centre of the palm of the left hand. This acupressure point is for the diaphragm and can help us release tension from the respiratory muscles. Close the eyes and breathe gently with all the focus on the breath and be aware of the light pressure you are placing on the palm of your hand. Breathe in for a count of five. Hold for a count of two. Exhale for seven. Repeat on the other hand. This will stimulate the diaphragm and activate the parasympathetic nervous system and induce feelings of calm.
3. ZZZZ Breathe
For: Deepening sleep, releasing stress, stimulating the feel good vagus nerve, calming the mind
How: Lay in bed, on your belly, head to one side and make sure the jaw is relaxed (allow there to be a small space between the upper and lower teeth). Close the eyes, using a diaphragmatic breath (breathing in, belly should rise), breathe in through the nose for a count of four. Hold the breath for a count of three. Exhale through the mouth for a count of six. Repeat this for five to ten rounds and notice how the body relaxes on the exhalation.
On each exhale imagine ‘letting go’ of the day. This should prepare you for a deep sleep. Extending the exhalation helps activate the parasympathetic nervous system which helps the body feel relaxed and calm.