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How To Breathe

Today is a "soft" day. This is how my Australian friend would describe a day that is not too hot, not too cold, no storms imminent, but maybe a bit overcast and gray. It is a day that seems to hold the breath of life suspended as the air suspends the dew in the early morning fog. It is a reminder to me to take a moment and just breathe.

Science has shown that working with the breath has not only a physiological effect but also an influence on the mind and emotions that trickles down into the deepest layers of our biological makeup. Our hormonal and immune function, as well as, the circulatory and respiratory systems – our heart, lung, and lymphatic health – are only one layer. We are finding that the breath has a calming effect on mind and emotion, and is a simple way to temper the flare-ups and tension we may feel as changes are happening daily in this "new normal" of life with a global pandemic.

Many studies have been done to verify the benefits to mindful breathing (see below), not only for stress reduction but as a treatment to supplement ongoing therapies for depression, anxiety, and other disorders involving the mind and the emotions. The simple process of focusing on the breath has been verified to actually alter neural processing and how the brain communicates with the body. Just like the old rule of thumb to "count to 10 before reacting," a simple way to start would be to breathe in through your nose as you count to 3, then release your breath to another count of 3. By doing this a few times, your whole system responds and it has been confirmed that a calm mind provides more clarity of thought and control with physical and emotional functioning.

Life is sometimes not easy, but to know there is a simple technique to help us that can be done anywhere at anytime, with no cost or outlay of money or time, can be a welcome relief as we step out again into creating a new path forward. Namaste!

Further reading:

  • - Perciavalle V, Blandini M, Fecarotta P, Buscemi A, Di Corrado D, Bertolo L, Fichera F, Coco M. The role of deep breathing on stress. Neurol Sci. 2017 Mar;38(3):451-458. doi: 10.1007/s10072-016-2790-8. Epub 2016 Dec 19. PMID: 27995346.

  • - Jerath R, Crawford MW, Barnes VA, Harden K. Self-regulation of breathing as a primary treatment for anxiety. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2015 Jun;40(2):107-15. doi: 10.1007/s10484-015-9279-8. PMID: 25869930.

  • - Zhang W, Ouyang Y, Tang F, Chen J, Li H. Breath-focused mindfulness alters early and late components during emotion regulation. Brain Cogn. 2019 Oct;135:103585. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2019.103585. Epub 2019 Jul 30. PMID: 31374347.

  • - Doll A, Hölzel BK, Mulej Bratec S, Boucard CC, Xie X, Wohlschläger AM, Sorg C. Mindful attention to breath regulates emotions via increased amygdala-prefrontal cortex connectivity. Neuroimage. 2016 Jul 1;134:305-313. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.03.041. Epub 2016 Mar 24. PMID: 27033686.


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