Stress is recognized as a challenge to mental and physical health. The people we encounter each day have widely different stressors in their lives. Given the many ways that stress can hinder our bodies’ function, it is important to take steps to moderate stress and bring short moments of calm. For simplicity, try these 5 breathing techniques for inner calm.
5 Breathing Techniques For Inner Calm
When you recognize that your stress levels are rising, here are five powerful breathing techniques for inner calm. These methods are practical and easy to integrate into your busy schedule. Taking just a few minutes to practice, they offer an effective way to manage stress and restore peace in your daily life.
1) Diaphragmatic Breathing
Let’s begin with the most basic technique. Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation of a calm mind and a relaxed body.
- Find a comfortable seat or lie down, placing one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
- Inhale slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach push against your hand. Meanwhile, the hand on your chest should remain relatively still.
- Exhale through pursed lips like whistling, engaging your stomach muscles to push the air out.
- Repeat this cycle for 3-5 minutes, focusing on the rise and fall of your belly.
2) 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Known as a natural tranquilizer for the nervous system, the 4-7-8 technique is remarkably simple to practice:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- Repeat this one-breath cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
3) Alternate Nostril Breathing
A staple in yoga practice, this technique can bring about immense calm and balance:
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight and your left hand on your knee.
- Place your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale deeply through your left nostril.
- At the peak of inhalation, close off the left nostril with your ring finger, then exhale through the right nostril.
- Continue this pattern, alternating nostrils after each inhalation.
4) Box Breathing
When you feel overwhelmed by tension, box breathing can provide the relief and calm you’re seeking:
- Inhale to a count of four.
- Hold your lungs full for a four-count hold.
- Exhale to the same slow count of four.
- Finish with an empty lung for a four-count hold.
- Repeat the process for two to four minutes.
5) Guided Visualization Breathing
Another approach combines breathwork with the power of mental imagery for a double dose of calm:
- Find a quiet spot to sit or lie down. Close your eyes.
- Take deep, slow breaths and visualize a serene place, like a beach or a garden.
- As you inhale, imagine a wave of peace washing over you. With each exhale, envision stress leaving your body.
- Continue for several minutes, allowing your breath to deepen your sense of peace.
- This technique can be done on your own, or using a recorded guided visualization on an app or YouTube.
Combine These Techniques For Less Stress
Feel free to experiment with each technique to find the one that resonates best with you. Like any other skill, mastering these techniques requires practice and patience.
It is likely that you would benefit from using a breathing technique several times a day. As a priority, I would especially recommend doing so before you eat a meal. Breathing is one of the easiest ways to shift your body into the parasympathetic nervous system.
If you remember when I shared this before, parasympathetic is the “rest and digest” mode, as opposed to the sympathetic “fight or flight.” Thus, your meals will be digested more effectively if you are in the “rest and digest” mode. To do this, give yourself a moment to sit down and breathe before you eat.
I encourage you to incorporate these breathing techniques for inner calm. Putting breathwork into your daily routine can offer a quick and effective way to manage stress and anchor you in the present moment.
Take some time over the next few days to explore different techniques and find which of them are most effective for you. Your body will thank you, as will your mind.