What does relaxation mean to you?
For many, relaxation means spacing out in front of the television at the end of a stressful day. However, this actually does little to reduce the damaging effects of stress (the opposite, in fact). To effectively tackle stress at it’s core, we need to activate the body’s natural relaxation response.
You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga. Fitting these activities into your life can help reduce everyday stress and boost your energy and mood.
Deep breathing is a simple yet powerful relaxation technique. It’s easy to learn, can be practiced almost anywhere, and provides a quick way to get your stress levels in check. I consider deep breathing to be the cornerstone of many other relaxation practices, and all you really need is a few minutes. Below, I will offer a quick exercise to get you started!
Simple Breathing Exercise
The key to deep breathing is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible in your lungs. When you take deep breaths from the abdomen, rather than shallow breaths from your upper chest, you inhale more oxygen. The more oxygen you get, the less tense, short of breath, and anxious you feel.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight. Put one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach.
- Breathe in through your nose. The hand on your stomach should rise. The hand on your chest should move very little.
- Exhale through your mouth, pushing out as much air as you can while contracting your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale, but your other hand should move very little.
- Continue to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Try to inhale enough so that your lower abdomen rises and falls. Count slowly as you exhale.
Learning the basics of relaxation techniques isn’t difficult, but it does take practice. Most experts recommend setting aside at least 10 – 20 minutes a day for your breathing & relaxation practice. Have fun with it! And remember to go easy on yourself. Starting something new takes time, but if practiced with consistency, you will notice lasting changes.
I hope you have found this breathing exercise useful. Please reach out if I can be helpful or resourceful in any way. I am a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher in Newport Beach, CA. You can contact me HERE. I offer face-to-face sessions in Orange County as well as, online through eTherapi.
photo credit: Michelle Gardella