How Deep Breathing Can Benefit Your Mental Health
7 minute read
By controlling the pace at which you breathe as well as concentrating on it for a period of time, you can make some beneficial changes to your brain.
Unlike other animals, humans can control and regulate their brain. We can decide to stay awake even when we feel tired, we can suppress unpleasant thoughts, and we can control emotions to a certain extent. We even have supplements to improve cognitive function.
The same can be said for breathing. Humans can alter the speed of their breath whereas other animals only experience breathing changes as the result of stimuli like running.
This control over breathing has caused scientists to wonder if there is some benefit to it, especially as it is currently used as a part of several forms of therapy.
Breathing and Your Brain
A recent study has shown that by focusing on your breath or making a conscious effort to control it, we gain access and improved harmony between areas of the brain.
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Patients were observed while breathing regularly and then were given a simple task to distract them. The same patients were then observed while consciously increasing the pace of their breath and counting each one.
What scientists found was that as breathing changed, so did the brain. By manipulating breathing, different parts of the brain were activated.
This allows us to understand how focused breathing is beneficial in therapy. During times of stress, concentrated breathing can alter the state of the brain. This could be useful for individuals who work in professions where extreme focus and agility is required.
Exercises involving intentional breathing alter the connections between parts of your brain, allowing you more access than you previously had. This new study allowed researchers to look inside the brain of a thinking and deciding individual, which had not yet been done before.
Breathe a Little Deeper
By concentrating and controlling your breathing you unlock potential in your brain. The differences in your breathing will create changes in your brain.
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With mental diseases, such as anxiety and depression, influencing or even controlling many brains across the country, focused breathing could be the perfect tool to overcome, manage, or mitigate them.
Deep breathing is an ancient practice for finding peace and this new research provides evidence as to why it has been so popular and effective. The benefits of deep or focused breathing extend beyond the mind and help to promote health throughout your body too.
Enlightenment: When you become aware that you are breathing in and out, you enter a state of mindfulness. Being mindful helps you to develop deep insight, which can lead to enlightenment. When your mind is calm, you gain insight that can improve your intuition and creativity.
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Cognitive improvements: The increased blood and oxygen flow to the brain that deep breathing provides stimulates your brain. Your mental observation can improve as can your concentration, leading to greater productivity, learning, and decision making.
Your muscles relax: When you are breathing deeply and focusing on every breath, your body will find it difficult to hold tension. Stressed breathing is shallow and rapid, which causes muscles to be tense.
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You are more likely to injure yourself when your muscles are tense, so deep breathing helps to keep your muscles relaxed throughout the day.
Oxygen delivery: Deep breathing allows you to bring in more air, which improves oxygen intake and delivery. Stress causes your body to prepare for fight-or-flight, causing breathing to become shallow.
If this persists throughout your day, you only take shallow breaths, which can deprive your cells of much-needed oxygen. Deeper, slower breathing can correct this right away.
Lower blood pressure: Focused breathing allows your muscles to relax and oxygen to flow freely as your blood vessels dilate. This helps to keep your blood pressure within healthy ranges and protects you from cardiovascular problems.
Pain relief: Deep breathing helps trigger the release of endorphins, which not only relieves pain but induces feelings of happiness and well-being. Just as exercise gives you a runner’s high, meditation can give you a “breather’s high.”
Detoxification: Regular deep breathing habits provide support for your lymphatic system, which is responsible for the removal of harmful toxins in your body. By clearing out harmful toxins, every part of your body can function more efficiently.
Digestive health improves: Shallow breathing is associated with constipation, but when you learn to breath deeply into your abdomen, you promote regular, healthier bowel movements. Breathing into your gut rather than your chest massages your internal organs. Just like you feel better after a massage, so will your organs.
Easier movements: Breathing deeper means breathing easier. When you breathe easier, you can also move easier.
With muscles being more relaxed, your joints experience increased strength and flexibility, thus protecting you from joint pain or damage.
Enhanced emotions: Controlled breathing is very relaxing for your mind and can eliminate any presence of stress from your brain and body. This combined with the release of endorphins will make you happier and also helps you get better sleep. Happy days and a good night’s sleep are basic ingredients for a healthier life.
Look better: Wrinkles are the result of poor circulation. Thankfully, deep breathing enhances circulation, improves oxygen flow, and boosts skin health and glow.
The Bottom Line
As a classic component to meditation, breathing helps to enlighten your mind, body, and spirit. In our busy lives, we forget that breathing serves a purpose.
By bringing awareness to it, not only do we remind ourselves that we are living in the present, away from the past problems and future worries. It also allows our brains to expand and reach a potential we would have otherwise never been aware of.