Ariana Grande’s popular song “breathin’” is an anthem to anxiety that speaks to a simple solution with a multitude of benefits. “Don’t know what else to try, but you tell me every time, just keep breathin’ and breathin’” chants the pop superstar.
Unfortunately, most of us weren’t taught the simple techniques and range of positive outcomes that come with—well—simply breathing.
It happens to all of us. Feelings like anxiety, stress, and fear cause our breathing to be shallow, irregular, or rapid. It’s entirely normal. Our body’s automatic response is to protect itself. The trick is to focus not on what’s happening around us, but to what is happening within us. We are breathing. It’s our most basic instinct.
Practicing steady, deep breathing delivers more oxygen to the body and brain, reduces your heart rate and decreases the release of cortisol—better known as the stress hormone. Deep breathing also releases endorphins. This in turn increases a sense of calm and can combat pain.
Other known benefits of deep breathing include:
- Lower blood pressure –Relaxation opens the blood vessels and improves circulation
- More energy—From increased oxygen to the circulatory system
- Less headache pain – Due to reduced tension locked in the shoulders and neck (you’ll rest better, too!)
Practice Makes Perfect
Getting back to steadier breaths is within reach. All it takes is a few minutes of practice. The American Psychiatry Association (APA) created one solution called “Just Breathe.” For three to four minutes a day:
- Think about your body. (Are you breathing rapidly, forgetting to take a breath altogether, or taking shallow gasps?)
- Begin breathing slowly and deeply for a count of four
- Hold that breath in for a count of four
- Slowly let the breath out for a count of six
Why does this work? Our brains can tell when we have varying emotions. Taking a few minutes to exercise a large organ in our body – our lungs – refocuses precious energy and retrains the way our body responds to our feelings.
Self-Care is Good Care
Almost everyone can relate to Grande’s refrain, “Time goes by, and I can’t control my mind.”
When this does happen to you, remember to breathe. Better yet, be proactive and take a small step in self-care by scheduling 4 minutes of ‘me time’ on your iPhone or calendar. Devote that time to breathing exercises.
Then, the next time someone asks you “How are you,” it will ring true when you reply, “I am good!”