Just Breathe

I have a picture in my office that says, “Just Breathe”. People who see that picture tell me “duh” and that they “breathe all day, every day”. I tell them, ‘of course we do’. In fact, on average, a person at rest breathes 12 and 20 times a minute, and 17,000 to 30,000 times a day (Northwestern Medicine, n.d.), and between 6,205,00 – 10,950,000 times per year. We take so many breaths a day to nourish our bodies with oxygen and rid ourselves of carbon dioxide; however, there is so much more behind the importance of the breath.

Merriam-Webster’s definition of “breath” is “to draw air into and expel it from the lungs, to inhale and exhale freely. It is automatic and done unconsciously. It brings oxygen into your body and expels carbon dioxide from your body.”

Breathing can help not only nourish our body but also helps us regulate our emotions and make better decisions. “The way you breathe affects your whole body. Breathing exercises are a good way to relax, reduce tension, and relieve stress.” (Michigan Medicine, n.d.) Breathing techniques are easy to learn and can be used anytime, anywhere, without being noticed.

There are many different types of breathing that can help you in many ways. Mindfulness breathing is where the attention is focused on the breath, noticing the details of the inhale through the nose and the exhale through the mouth. This type of breathing helps us relax, quiets our mind or thoughts, lowers blood pressure, decreases anxiety, decreases pain, relieves muscle tension, helps us sleep and helps us connect with our inner knowing (mind and body). It also helps us to slow down and make better decisions.

Abdominal Breathing, or deep breathing, is a type of Mindfulness breathing. This is one of the best breathing techniques to lower stress in your body. This is because when you breathe deeply, it sends a message to your brain to calm down. The brain then sends this message to your body to calm down, thus decreasing what is causing you stress such as increased heart rate, fast breathing, increased blood pressure and increased muscle tension. (Michigan Medicine, n.d.)

Deep breathing provides space between the stimulus (cause of situation) and the response (reaction) which helps us react differently and more calmly. It is in that space that you are able to quiet your thoughts and decrease your emotions. It helps you to use your wise mind. For example, you are having a discussion with someone and they say something that is upsetting – that is the stimulus. If you take a couple of breaths before you respond, you will become calmer and respond differently. It helps you to not respond with your emotional mind but to use your wise mind instead. It is in that space that you can slow down your heart rate, calm down and respond using a rational and wise mind. A good way to deep breathe is to breathe in while counting to 4, hold the breath while counting to 4, then count to 4 again while releasing. Repeating this will help to calm you.

Some situations to practice deep breathing are before a test, before you speak in front of a crowd, before going to bed to help quiet your mind, or before entering a large crowd. Breathing not only helps us nourish our bodies with oxygen and release carbon dioxide, but it also helps us with our emotions. It helps us to make better decisions and helps us to stay calm. When deep breathing, you may also find answers to questions you have about your inner knowing. Every day take time to notice your breath, the inbreath and the outbreath, and how it can help you to calm down, relieve stress and pain, and make good decisions.

Works Cited: Michigan Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from uofmhealth. org: Stress management: breathing exercises for relaxation: www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uz2255 

Northwestern Medicine. (n.d.). Retrieved from www. nm.org: https://www.nm.org/heartbeat/healthy-tips/4- breathing-techniques-for-better-health

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  • Provisional Licensed Mental Health Practitioner


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