Stressed out? Breathe in.

December 2nd, 2011

Breathing is automatic. We do it without thinking. And while no one can explain exactly how it is we do breathe, focusing on the act of breathing regularly may be the simplest way to handle stress, manage difficult situations, and enable us to be our most productive.

A recent study by researchers at the Toho University School of Medicine in Japan indicates we can boost our mood and capacity for high-level thinking by paying attention to our breathing.

Participants who were taught to breathe deeply into their abdomen and keep their awareness on breathing this way for 20 minutes, had more of the mood-boosting neurotransmitter serotonin in their blood and more oxygenated hemoglobin in the prefrontal cortex, the brain’s area of executive function. The result: more positive feelings.

Mindful breathing is easy enough to try anytime, and getting the hang of it takes only a little practice. Below are a few simple steps. Try it just five minutes at first and work up to increasing your focused breathing time to 20 minutes.

  1. Find a quiet, private place where you can be undistracted for a few minutes — for instance, close your office door and mute your phone.
  2. Sit comfortably, with your back straight but relaxed.
  3. Focus your awareness on each breath. Feel the air come into your nose, move through your chest and into your abdomen.
  4. Stay attentive to the sensations of your inhale and exhale, and start again on the next breath.
  5. Do not judge your breathing or try to change it in any way.
  6. See anything else that comes to mind as a distraction — thoughts, sounds, whatever — let them go and return your attention to your breath.

It makes sense that the best way to stay calm and go with the flow is to breathe in. There is perhaps nothing that connects us more to the infinitesimal life force of the universe than the simple act of breathing.

Related Post: The bounce-back quality. (April 29, 2011)

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2 Responses to “Stressed out? Breathe in.”

  1. Judie Koeppler says:

    Funny how Alex just told me to do this last week…just breathe! I really do need to follow your example.

  2. Julie Tarney says:

    I’m always telling myself that! And I think it’s definitely a must for wedding planners.