Taking a deep breath is something that most of us have probably heard someone say at some point in our lives.  Taking a deep breath is something we tell other people, whenever they feel stressed or need a moment to calm their thoughts and think about what to do next.  Taking a deep breath, or deep breathing is often a way that anyone feeling overwhelmed by any moment in time can take a few seconds of rest to relax and reset their thinking.  But just how powerful is deep breathing?  And if you’ve never really found it that helpful, could you simply be doing it wrong?

We see it all the time in films and television shows, people taking a deep breath when their getting anxious or flustered or sometimes taking a deep breath to calm their nerves before doing something dangerous or preparing themselves for what’s to come.  In our own everyday lives though, many of us simply forget the power of deep breathing and while we often might find ourselves telling others to take a deep breath when we see them struggling, how often do we really do this ourselves, and do we even know how to deep breathe properly in the first place?

Why deep breathing is so important

I was someone who suffered a lot of anxiety in the past and was even diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as well as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) which itself is an extreme form of anxiety resulting in unwanted repetitive thoughts and often self-distructive, repetitive behaviour.  Having so much anxiety, I was often told by people to take a deep breath to calm my nerves, especially when I was in the midst of an ‘episode’ of extreme panic attack or OCD freak-out!  But despite this well-meanth advice, it fell on deaf ears as I never really tried breathing deeply properly, and even when I did try it, it just didn’t seem to work.  This changed when I learned how to take a deep breath properly, which instantly began to transform the way I felt in any given situation.

Learning to deep breathe I’d take a breath whenever I felt overwhelmed or stressed about anything.  If someone said something that upset or annoyed me, I’d take a deep breath (several in fact) before continuing with my day and I felt less affected by the words people had said.  When overwhelmed with the amount of tasks I needed to do in a day, I simply took a few moments to breathe deeply and it became easier to focus and I’d work out exactly what I was going to do and began getting through the tasks one at a time.

Breathing deeply is one of the most important and easiest things you can begin doing in your everyday life.  Everytime something happens that annoys, angers or upsets you, even something small like someone cutting you off in traffic, all you need to do is take a few deep breaths and it brings on a calmness and makes you react less to what has just happened.  Breathing deeply also helps clear your mind and helps you to be calm and think clearly about situations you might be getting lost or flustered in.  But most of us don’t take the time to breathe deeply and don’t know how to do it properly so when we try to breathe deeply, we get little benefit from it.

How to deep breathe properly

It’s amazing how so many of us don’t do this properly, and in fact many people have spent years never using the full capacity of their lungs.  Taking a few deep breaths can be done anywhere and at any time, but the effects are even more powerful if you can sit or stand in a quiet place for a few moments and close your eyes.  It’s also important to make sure that you breathe in slowly, if you try to breathe in as fast as possible, you don’t get the full benefits of deep breathing.  Breathing in too fast for me just rushes the air into the lungs and prevents me being able to fill up my lungs fully, so make sure to take the time to inhale and exhale slowly.  The longer it takes to brreathe in and out the better you will feel.

Taking a deep breathe doesn’t start with the lungs, it begins with the stomach.  The most important thing you can learn from deep brething is that you should always start with the stomach or tummy area, and the best way to breathe deeply is to begin taking a breath while partially pushing your lower tummy out.  We all have muscles to pull our stomachs in but by pushing it out a bit you will be filling up the bottom of your lungs which, suprisingly, most of us don’t do. (and don’t worry, you won’t get a distended permanent stomach from doing this – in fact it might even help flatten it over time! 🙂 )

As you continue to breathe slowly in, you’ll naturally want to expand your chest out slightly (try to make sure you have a straight back while doing this) and if you want to really get the full effects when practicing the first few times try lifting up your shoulders slightly at the end.  This shouldn’t feel painful at any time and if you feel you pain trying to push out a part of yourself like your stomach or chest then you have done it too much and too forcefully.  It should be a gentle gradual movement while breathing in.  Hold the breathe for a few seconds and then slowly breathe out relaxing every muscle in your body.

Exhaling you should do the reverse, drop your shoulders as you begin to exhale (if you lifted them), your chest should naturally decrease in size and as you get toward sthe end of the breath, pull your tummy in a little to really emplty your lungs.

Side effects of deep breathing

There are a few side effects that some people feel the first time they breathe deeply.  The first is a light-headedness which is rare but some people feel as they are taking in more oxygen than ever before.  Don’t worry, this only happens at the start, when you aren’t used to it and the extra oxygen is good for your body anyway 🙂

Another side effect I experienced at first is a slightly cold feeling in my lungs, as if I’d inhaled cold spring air, when I had taken a full deep breath the first few times.  This is likely due to the fact that my lungs were not used to having air throughout the entire lung, in every tube and air sac (especially as I used to suffer from asthma as a child and teen).  This only affected me the first few times I tried this though and doesn’t anymore so don’t worry if you experience this too.  Nothing about breathign deeply should result in you feeling any pain, if you do then you are pushing it too much, just relax and just slowly breathe in and out, listen to your body to feel how much you should be moving your stomach and chest in and out.

Deep breathing is powerful

The biggest side effect I’ve experienced though is an amazing calmness.  It helps to close your eyes (if you can) and simply say to yourself, in your mind, “All is well” or “I am calm”.  Breathing deeply is something that we should all be told how to do but a lot of us just aren’t and go through life getting so stressed about things that are happening.  We forget the amazing power of breathing deeply which is all about being mindful and in the present moment.

Of course breathing deeply cannot cure big problems in our lives, but if it can give us a few minutes to feel more clarity, to feel calmer and less stressed or more focused, then why not try it next time you feel overwhelmed or triggered by another person or situation in your life.

Breating deeply at certain moments has helped me to become a calmer person and become someone who is no longer triggered by anxiety or the OCD in my life (well, I wouldn’t say I’m cured but it’s certainly helped me a lot, most of the time!).  The more deep breathing I do the easier it becomes and the more often I find myself doing it.  If it doesn’t come naturally or doesn’t feel right then just let your body guide you and try again.  Breathing deeply is an important thing we can all try to do and it doesn’t cost anything other than a few seconds of your day 🙂  So why not try it, whenever you feel you need a few moments to relax, it might just make the difference between a stressful day and one where you feel in control.  Have a wonderful day everyone ❤ 🙂

Have you tried deep breathing to calm yourself?  Have you ever used deep breathing in a positive way in your life?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂