Breathing - it is something we do every day without even thinking, almost to the point of taking it for granted.
Very few of us take the time to really breathe into our diaphragm, inhale deeply, and appreciate the air that fills our lungs every moment of our life, and the benefits this can bring.
Practicing conscious breathing has become quite a eye opener for me of late, in being able to take myself to a much more peaceful state and reduce stress.
I recently heard in an interview with Dr. Libby Weaver, that one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves when we are stressed is to diaphragmatically breathe. It is the quickest way to decrease the stress hormones that affect our autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system is the visceral or involuntary nervous system, and it operates largely below the level of consciousness. When we are stressed it kicks into action affecting many things including our heart and respiratory rate without us even realising it.
The only way we can influence it is through our breath. When we are in high anxiety our body naturally goes into the fight or flight response.
However when we slowly breathe in and our belly expands, and when we exhale and our belly shrinks, we are moving the diaphragm up and down to communicate to every cell in our body that we are safe.
If we were truly in danger we wouldn't be able to think that through and breathe in that way.
So the fastest and most powerful way to influence our stress levels is to diaphragmatically breathe.
Long term if we are constantly faced with chronic stress it can lead to suppression of our immune system, impaired cognitive performance, blood sugar imbalances, thyroid imbalance and high blood pressure. For me it resulted in adrenal fatigue that took nearly 2 years to recover from.
It only takes a minute or two, a few times a day to allow the body to let go and relax. Show yourself kindness - at any moment you can close your eyes and take the opportunity to take 2 or 3 deep breaths and release any tension you are carrying.
Remember this is something that you can do any time, anywhere, its quick, and hey best of all - it's free!
Here are some great breathing exercises from Dr. Andrew Weil. I love the 4-7-8 technique for calm and deep relaxation.