Things are happening so fast lately. Information travels at warp speed, the world seems to become new and strange with every passing minute. And, no doubt, you’re busier than you’ve ever been.
All of this noise and commotion can result in ridiculous amounts of stress and prevent you from slowing down to take in what’s really important – like your family and friends. You might not even recognize you’re letting yourself get so caught up in the flurry of it all.
What can you do to de-stress and unwind, especially if you don’t have the money to go to Club Med or play a couple rounds of golf?
The answer is quite simple. In fact, you might not even believe it when I tell you about the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to relax. Are you ready? Here it is –
Sounds crazy, right? But science has proven time and time again that the simple act of mindful breathing can lower your heart rate.1 So, here are 5 Easy, Stress-Relieving Breathing Exercises to try. And the best thing about them … you can do them anywhere – at work, sitting in traffic, at the airport, or in the comfort of your own home.
Not only can these types of breathing exercises help you de-stress, but they’ll also ensure your body works well, your mind stays clearer, and they’ll give you a feeling of groundedness and calm.
1. Abdominal Breathing
- Put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your belly.
- Inhale deeply through your nose, making sure your diaphragm inflates – as opposed to your chest. Inhale deeply enough to stretch your lungs.
Repeat this 7 – 10 times per minute for 8 – 12 minutes every day. You’ll notice your heart rate drop immediately, and your blood pressure should too. In fact, if you can make this exercise a daily practice, you might be able to reach a level of greater relaxation than you expected – for the long haul.
2. Breath of Dawn
This exercise is a great for helping to jumpstart your day. It’s meant to help you ease stiff muscles and open up your inner airways. And if you suffer from tension in your back, this can help you relieve it a bit.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend at your waist, bending your knees just a little.
- Let your arms dangle to the floor.
- Slowly breathe. Make sure it’s a deep breath.
- Then, lift yourself slowly back to standing – rolling up your spine and making sure the last thing you do is lift your head.
- Now, hold your breath and count to five while standing.
- Exhale and repeat.
This one’s simple and can help promote relaxation. This exercise can take you to your favorite beach with rolling waves, your secret forest hideaway, or any place you can recall or imagine. It’s my personal favorite.
- Focus on a lovely, peaceful image.
- Breathe deeply in your own time.
- Let these joyful images coax negative thoughts from your brain.
Visualizing is an easy way to go where you want to go. We all have the capacity to imagine. It’s easy to let go of making it a regular practice, because the realities of life replace your childhood ability to feel free and simply make believe. But, there’s a reason your brain is capable of pretending … and this superpower can be used to your relaxing advantage.
4. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This is a great way to get rid of pressure and stress anywhere in your body.
- Close your eyes.
- Pay special attention to one muscle or muscle group (i.e. your hands).
- Clench the muscle group as tightly as possible for 10 seconds.
- Then, relax the muscle group completely for five seconds.
- Repeat this process throughout the body. In fact, you can do a full body check starting from your toes and working your way up through your ankles, calves, thighs, bum, and so on – all the way up through your shoulders, neck, and various muscles in your face and head.
- Breathe deeply in and out as you work your way through each muscle group.
5. Alternating Nostril Breathing
This one is a little bit more advanced than the others, but it’s meant to bring balance, calm, and peacefulness to your mind – supposedly creating harmony between the left and right sides of your brain.
- Sit with your legs crossed on the floor.
- Block your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe deeply through your left nostril.
- When you reach the depth of your inhale, when you think you can’t take in any more air, block your left nostril and exhale through your right nostril. (Sounds complicated I know, but if you practice a few times, you’ll get the hang of it.)
- Repeat the pattern, starting with the left nostril and the left thumb, and switching to the right on the exhale.
This exercise is meant to help you awaken your mind or focus. So, hopefully it can lead to better productivity if you happen to be at work or if you’re trying to accomplish a certain task.
Be aware that some people do experience a slight dizziness when starting to work in a focused way with their breath. If that happens, simply stop, regain your normal breath, and try again.
And remember, these five easy breathing exercises can help arm you against the stresses of the world, especially when things seem to feel like a bit too much. And the best news is, you can do them anywhere, anytime, and for as long as you need.
Think back to being a kid and falling off your bike or skinning your knee. You’d run to your mother, father, or the nearest voice of comfort. They’d tell you, “It’s going to be okay. Just take deep breaths.” It’s great advice.
And, nothing’s changed since then, except that as adults, we have to remind ourselves …
For more health tips, keep reading:
1. Nogawa M, Yamakoshi T, Ikarashi A, Tanaka S, Yamakoshi K. Assessment of Slow-breathing Relaxation Technique in Acute Stressful Tasks Using a Multipurpose Non-invasive Beat-by-Beat Cardiovascular Monitoring System. 2007 29th Annual International Conference of the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society. 2007. doi:10.1109/iembs.2007.4353543.