Fun fact: the breathing rate that is considered normal for the average adult is 12-20 breaths per minute. That keeps us content, stable, and healthy. However, if you go higher than that, you enter anxiety territory. Next time you find you’re in an unpleasant situation, pay attention to your breath without trying to alter it. More often than not you’ll find that you’re breathing shallow and quickly, which only exacerbates the issue. Your problems cause your bad breathing, which makes the problem feel worse, which makes your breathing worse, and so on and so forth. It’s a vicious cycle.
The uplifting side to this, however, is that you are not powerless. You have the ability to fix your breathing when it’s out of whack, and in turn you can potentially stop your anxiety from getting any worse or even make things a little better. There are so many great different breathing exercises meant for different purposes, but all will help bring your breathing back to that 12-20 per minute range once you’re done doing it.
Today I’ve decided to write a list of ones that I’ve personally tried and found helpful. Some of these are ones I’ve found online, and others are ones I learned through meditation and yoga classes. Let me know in the comments which ones work best for you!
1) Square breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, and hold it for four seconds. Do this ideally at least 4 times, but you can also do it as long as you feel you need to.
2) Square breathing variant. I think this one’s my absolute favorite. Instead of breathing in for 4 seconds, breathe in for as much as your lungs can possibly contain, hold that for 4 seconds, then breathe absolutely everything out and then some, really try to get everything out. Hold for four seconds, then repeat the cycle as much as you need.
3) Alternate nostril breathing. To start off, use your right thumb and close your right nostril, and place your right ring finger on the inner corner of your left eyebrow. Inhale as deeply as you can, and before you exhale switch your fingers so that your ring finger is closing your left nostril, and your right thumb is on the inner corner of the right eyebrow. Exhale everything out, then switch again. Do this until you feel relaxed. This exercise is actually known to help you focus and wake up since it requires concentration and active thought to accomplish.
4) The 4-7-8 breath. Inhale with your mouth closed through your nostrils for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, then exhale out for a count of 8 seconds. Repeat as needed.
To see if the exercises help you specifically, set a timer for a minute and count your breaths before that exercise. Try your very best to just breathe naturally and not control your breath, let your body do its thing. Note that number, do the breathing exercise, then set another timer for a minute and count your breaths again. If your breath count decreased, then it’s working.
Wishing you calm breaths and a relaxing day,