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  • Writer's pictureHelen

Just breathe...

Dr Andrew Weil, celebrity doctor and world leader in integrative medicine said:

"If I had to limit my advice on healthier living to just one tip, it would be to simply learn how to breathe correctly".

I sometimes feel anxious and at these times my thoughts are racing and I can overthink. I find that my breathing has become more shallow and I feel out of sorts. Physical exercise has really helped me and breathing exercises. Most of us don't give our breathing much thought, it happens automatically but many of us are breathing with our upper chest rather than our diaphragm (the large muscle between the chest and abdomen).

An optimal breath is one where you allow your diaphragm to fully descend on the inhale, pushing down on the organs beneath it and expanding your abdomen to the front and sides. On an exhale your diaphragm relaxes and rises, enabling your organs to return back to their original position. Your abdomen shrinks back to its resting form

In 2018, a study carried out by Trinity College, showed that breathing directly affects the levels of a natural chemical messenger in the brain called noradrenaline. This chemical messenger is released when we are challenged, curious, exercised, focused or emotionally aroused, and, if produced at the right levels, helps the brain grow new connections. The way we breathe directly affects the chemistry of our brains in a way that can enhance our attention and improve our brain health.

The research finds that there is evidence to support the view that there is a strong connection between breath-centred practices and a steadiness of mind.

There are many breathing exercises you can try but a simple one is:

Box breathing if you are nervous, anxious or just need to relax:

  • Exhale through your nose.

  • Inhale through your nose slowly for a count of 5 seconds (from your diaphragm).

  • Hold your breath for a count of 5.

  • Exhale slowly though your nose for a count of 5.

  • Hold your breath for a count of 5, focus on releasing any tension in the body

  • Repeat this pattern of inhale-pause-exhale for at least 3 minutes or until you have felt yourself fully calm down.

It is Mental Health Awareness week, May 15th-21st, the theme this year is anxiety. Download the Mental Health Foundation's tips on how to deal with anxiety here.


Richie Bostock, Exhale, 2020


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