Mindful Breathing

When we are stressed or overwhelmed (physically or mentally), we breathe differently than when we are calm and relaxed.

Our inhales tend to be more shallow and from the chest and our exhales are shorter, when we are not calm and relaxed. When we are in a calm state, our inhales tend to be more full and from our diaphragm, and our exhales are longer.

The brain and body communicate with one another, sending and receiving messages constantly, like a machine. When our breathing is not deep and full, transmitters in the brain receive the message of stress and danger. This activates other centres of the brain to react in response to the messages it receives. Simply put when the brain receives the “danger” message, the switch in our nervous system turns “on”, which activates a fight/flight/freeze response.

This is a natural process that will take place involuntarily during stressful or dangerous situations. After the situation leaves, the body and brain work together to provide stability and a return to normal levels. However, for some situations our nervous system switch can get “stuck” and we end up remaining in a fight/flight/freeze response longer than we need to. This can cause all kinds of problems for our bodies and for our brains.

Luckily, with mindful breathing, we can help control the signals our bodies communicate to the brain. By being mindful of our breathing, we can remain more stable and capable in a stressful situation, we can tolerate and manage stress and overwhelm, and we can learn to relax when it is time to relax. We can help our brain and body regulate and stabilize, just by managing our breathing.

Scriptural Application

Mindful breathing is a useful practice that can remind us of the wonderful design God has so thoughtfully given to us.

God used His breath to breathe life in to Adam.

Without the breath, we do not have life. Let’s take some time this week to be grateful for the breath of life.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:17

Practical Application

Learning mindful breathing techniques, can help us fight off all manner of issues that arise due to chronic stress: heart issues, sleeplessness, high blood pressure. It will help our immune systems to become stronger, giving our bodies a stronger ability to fight off colds and other sicknesses.

Since, our brain receives the communication that there is no danger or stress to fight when we are breathing deeply from our diaphragm, we can use our bodies (and our breathing) to communicate to the brain that everything is ok, if we take the time to concentrate on breathing.

This week, set aside 2 minutes of quiet down time to recognize your breathing.

Things to notice:

Are you “chest” breathing or “diaphragm” breathing? Are your breaths long and slow or are they short and fast?

Remember, if you are “chest” breathing, your body is telling your brain that you are stressed or in danger. Try moving the breath down to the diaphragm by taking a full, slow, inhale while counting to 4. Hold for 2 counts, and release slowly for around 8 counts.

At first this can be tough to do, especially if your body and brain has been used to communicating high and chronic levels of stress. It may even make you feel like you aren’t getting enough air. But keep practicing.

Practice Mindful Breathing

Practicing this daily, will have a ripple effect on your stress levels, sleep routines, how you react and respond to overwhelming situations. Practice this daily, and you will eventually be aware of how you breathe in different situations and you can use your breaths to tell your brain everything is ok.

The brain and the body work together. If our bodies are stressed, our brain is stressed. If our bodies are calm and relaxed, our brain is too. We regulate that conversation between our brain and body with mindful breathing.


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