Breathing has a profound effect on mood, thought and level of anxiety. By simply focusing your attention on your breathing, and without doing anything to change it, you can move in the direction of relaxation. Too much attention on upsetting thoughts may cause anxiety, guilt and unhappiness. Get in the habit of shifting your awareness to your breath whenever you find yourself dwelling on stressful situations.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise
This is a very effective exercise for stress relief.
Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. Always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Breathe from your diaphragm rather than from your chest. If you place a hand on your belly, you should feel it moving up and down.
- Exhale completely through your mouth.
- Close your mouth and inhale through your nose to a count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale completely through your mouth to a count of 8.
- Repeat the cycle three more times or until you feel calm.
The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important, but the ratio of 4:7:8 is. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the three phases. With practice you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.
Practise at least twice a day. You may feel a little lightheaded when you first start this exercise, but this will pass.