We do it every day, unconsciously, in order to live our lives. It is embedded in our vocabulary ("she took my breath away", "take a breather") and arguably it is the most important function of our body. So can breathing also help you cope with depression, anxiety and more? Research would suggest so, and the best thing about it - it's free and accessible anywhere.
So when we talk about breathing to support our wellbeing, we are not just thinking about every day breathing we do whilst watching TV, chatting to friends or walking. Breathe work is focused, has purpose and follows a pattern. This is the first benefit I see of doing it - having a focus on one thing, which follows the tradition of mindfulness. So this is helpful for those who have anxiety, focusing on your breathe may take you out of an anxious state worrying about a specific circumstance. In addition, if you are stressed with life or work, taking 5 minutes a day to do some breathing can be beneficial as you take time out of your schedule for you.
The second benefit is that breathe work encourages us to exhale either longer than we usually would, and preferably longer than we inhale. This will feel strange at first, as our usual breathing is shallow, but you get used to it after a couple of tries. The scientific benefit is that exhaling is linked to our parasympathetic nervous system so by exhaling slowly, we tell our bodies to be calm and relaxed. This is why if you have ever seen someone having a panic attack, they are encouraged to take long, slow breathes rather than quick, shallow ones. Because of this, breathing consciously can help people with anxiety, panic, anger, stress.
Some breathing exercises you can try
It is important to note: if you have any complications with your breathing, lungs or conditions such as asthma, please seek guidance from a medical professional before trying these exercises.
Although you can do breathwork stood up, you may wish to sit down to do these, and try to maintain good posture, whilst remaining comfortable.
4x4 breathing - this may be a good one to try first, I like it because it is easy to remember. It is one that you can do anywhere if you need a quick dose of calm.
Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
Hold your breathe for 4 seconds
Breathe out through your mouth for 4 seconds
Hold for 4 seconds
Do all the above 4 times.
4-7-8 breathing for relaxation - this is often described as incredibly relaxing and start by doing no more than four rounds of the breathe and then build up as you gain experience.
Exhale all the breathe out of your mouth.
Breathe through your nose for 4 seconds.
Hold your breathe for 7 seconds.
Breathe out through your mouth for 8 seconds, really pushing all the air out of your lungs.
With both of the above exercises, you should start with a low number of rounds and build up the amount as you gain confidence doing them. I hope you see some benefits; they may not change your circumstance, but they can really help with managing your wellbeing and it is always positive to have a few minutes to yourself each day.