Breathing Exercises for Good Mental Health
Maintaining good mental health is an essential part of your overall health. Mental health is about maintaining well-being, whether you have a mental illness or not we all must be able to cope with stress, learn how to handle difficulties, maintain healthy relationships and feel good about ourselves. Mindfulness builds awareness when it can be difficult to pinpoint why you’re stressed or are having difficulty with daily life.
Deep breathing when done mindfully is a simple action towards maintaining good mental health. The beauty of engaging in these exercises is that you can carry them out any time, anywhere. If you have a few moments to spare, they can be done; in the car, while in line at the grocery store, or even at your desk.
How to get started with breathing exercises?
Try setting a timer for ten minutes each day to unplug and focus on your breathing. It works if you are open to making space in your schedule each day for yourself, meaning your phone or other distracting devices should be silenced and put away. Can’t stand the silence? Try incorporating sound. If even ten minutes a day seems like too much with your schedule, try starting with taking five deep breaths upon waking. In the morning, just before exiting your bed and after waking up. Sit up, stop and take five, slow, deep breaths. Focus on working your way to five deep breaths with uninterrupted thoughts.
Begin by noticing your breath and refocusing your attention to it as needed. Keep your eyes open and utilize a soft and relaxed gaze to a set point in your room. Note your posture when attempting any deep breathing exercise. Sit in a relaxed position with your chest open and make sure your back is not slumped over. Slumped shoulders and poor posture limit the oxygen intake. Concentrate on each breath, feel each breath go in through your nose and your mouth. Most importantly, block out all of your early morning thoughts of what you plan on doing that day and stay present.
You will find you need quite a bit of concentrating initially! Stay in the present moment without worrying about if you are breathing “wrong”. Let go of any judgement and be present.
The Benefits of Breathing Exercises
When you practice deep mindful breathing, you stand to reap great benefits physically and mentally. The benefits include calmness, decreased heart rate and lower blood pressure. Not only does mindfulness promote positive emotions, it also reduces stress and improves the quality of life. Deep breathing promotes proper blood circulation to and in the brain. This helps counteract the effects of daily stress. Normally we adopt shallow breathing, because aesthetically we hold in our stomachs when walking or the lungs do not get enough exercise and we loose some of this function. When the lungs don’t get enough oxygen we feel short of breath and anxious.
Deep breathing engages the parasympathetic system which helps to calm us down. Overtime, you can alter your body’s stress response. Breathing exercises also help in alleviating depression. This happens when the biochemistry (ph level) of the brain is re-balanced. This occurs when stress hormones decrease (Cortisol), and the ‘feel good’ hormones (Occitocin and Prolactin) increase. Imagine being able to react more calmly to everyday frustrating situations.