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Just Breathe! And Why it Matters

The breath is one of the most powerful tools we have at our fingertips to help us manage our physical and emotional reactions in every day life. Why? Because deep breathing (e.g., diaphragmatic breathing or "belly breathing") activates our relaxation response, and signals the brain and body that it's time to unwind and calm down. Interestingly, as babies we automatically breath with our diaphragms, but over time most of us shift to chest breathing, which doesn't trigger the same relaxation response as deep breathing does. The key to harnassing the calming power of the breath is to train and practice this skill when we are in a relaxed state. Once we train our bodies to belly breathe, we can intentionally call upon the breath anytime and anywhere to calm us down physically and to focus the brain, like when we're sitting in traffic, feeling frustrated with a child or a co-worker, or about to perform a challenging task.

Click on the image below to watch a YouTube video on how to train your body to belly breathe.

This is exactly what I need, but how do I make deep breathing a habit?

  • Ask, "Why is it important to me to learn this new skill?" and write down your answer, posting it somewhere visible so you'll have a daily reminder.

  • Set a practice goal, noting a specific time, place, and a length of time that works for you.

  • Find your favorite breathing app to help you practice. There are many free and paid resources available. Free ones include the "Insight Timer" and "UCLA Mindful" apps.

  • Engage in activities that focus on and activate the breath, such as yoga and Tai Chi.

  • Take a mindful walk, focusing on your breath and the beauty around you.

  • Once your body knows how to belly breath in any position (e.g., laying down, sitting, standing as described in the YouTube video), the next time you experience a surge of stress, pause and take five deep belly breaths before you respond.

  • Be patient. Learning and using a new skill can be challenging, especially when trying to apply it in the heat of the moment. If you feel frustrated, try to get super curious and notice what's getting in the way. And then keep practicing until it becomes an engrained habit, which typically takes 2-3 months of frequent practice.

  • If you would you like to learn more about wellness and how to prioritize your goals, explore our website:

Fell free share your own experiences with deep breathing so we can learn from each other!

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