It seems like the world gets more complex every day. Our jobs become more demanding, our family’s needs become greater, and now we realize that a pandemic can turn our lives upside down in just a matter of days. All this increasing stress is putting our nerves on edge.
Some people have learned how to deal with stress more effectively than others. Those who haven’t need a quick and effective way to reduce stress. Fortunately, there is a way. It’s called mindful breathing.
You may have already heard of mindful breathing, but maybe you’re not sure how it can help, or how to practice it. Here are 5 ways mindful breathing can calm your nerves and help you relax.
Calm Your Mind
One of the ways that mindful breathing calms your nerves and reduces stress is by calming your mind. By calming your mind, you reduce the traffic jam in your head that makes you restless and anxious. It helps you see yourself and the world with greater clarity by bringing you back to the present moment, where all life is taking place.The truth is that calming your mind is easier than you might think. It’s actually more natural for our mind to be at rest. By sitting quietly and doing mindful breathing, you allow your mind to settle down naturally.
Calm Your Emotions
Mindful breathing calms your emotions in two ways. First, by calming your mind, you reduce the number of thoughts that trigger your emotions. Second, with a calm mind you see things with greater clarity, so you process events in your life with a more realistic perspective. You’ll change the programming in your mind that leads to the stressful emotions. On a deeper level, you’ll be more objective in your analysis of information and events. You’ll also see that many things that happen in your life have nothing to do with you personally, so you won’t attach any emotions to them to begin with.
Calm Your Body
Mindful breathing also helps calm your body. One of the ways it does this is by relaxing your muscles and controlling the production of noradrenaline, a stress hormone. When you breathe mindfully, your brain sends a signal to your muscles that it’s OK to relax. Another way that mindful breathing calms your body is through a synergy between the mind, body, and emotions. As you calm any one of these three areas, each will have a calming influence on the other. All three will work together.
Trigger the Relaxation Response
There are also physiological reasons mindful breathing helps you relax. You may have heard of the “fight or flight” response, where humans react to stressful situations by fighting or running away. Well, the Relaxation Response is basically the opposite reaction. It’s a way for us to relax when we are under excessive stress.
What happens is that your metabolism decreases, breathing slows, heart rate slows, muscles relax, and blood pressure decreases. When you do deep breathing, oxygen supply to the brain increases, and this stimulates the nervous system, which controls energy expenditure, heart rate, and intestinal activity, among other functions. This is largely what promotes a state of calmness when you practice mindful breathing and meditation.
Another way by which breathing helps you relax is by stimulating the brain to release endorphins, the hormones that give you a feeling of calm and well-being. The way it works is that when you take a deep breath, your heart rate quickens slightly, and when you exhale, your heart rate slows down. When you do this repeatedly, your breath and heart rate will become in sync, which triggers the release of the endorphins.
Improve Your Health
Most of us take our breathing for granted. We never think about our breathing until we have some difficulty or ailment. But did you know that how you breathe, and how much, can have a significant impact on your health?
In a long-term study, researchers found that the greatest indicator of life span wasn’t factors that they had predicted, such as genetics, or diet and nutrition, but rather lung capacity. That is, the larger the lungs, the longer the life spans. They found that with larger lungs you can draw in more air, which leads to better circulation, and less wear and tear on the body. Greater lung capacity is also associated with lower stress levels, less anxiety, and fewer incidences of depression and other mental disorders.
How to Practice Mindful Breathing
There are various techniques that revolve around mindful breathing that we teach in the Mindful Connections course. Get started with mindful meditation; your zen is waiting.