To give ourselves a fighting chance against America’s top health burdens, we must cultivate a foundation of health for ourselves (and children). Modifiable behaviors such as nutrition, hydration status, activity level, time spent in green spaces and sunlight, sleep habits, mind-body awareness and stress management all exert strong physiological influences that help prevent or manage these conditions and boost your overall mental and physical health.
One easy-to-implement, well-established health behavior is deep breathing, which is defined as 4 to 10 breaths per minute. Breathing is intimately linked with mental functions and interacts with the cardio-respiratory system by way of the autonomic nervous system. The practice of deep breathing has been shown to help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and other critical biological functions.
The practice of deep breathing at <10 breaths per minute has also shown to induce relaxation, stress relief and a significant reduction of adverse effects (e.g., anxiety, tension, intrusive thoughts, or fear of losing control) and mood states (e.g., depression, anger, hostility and confusion).
The regular practicing of deep, slow breathing can have profound effects on your health. However, it is also an extremely effective technique to use in a moment when we feel emotionally triggered or notice the flare up of uncomfortable or unexpected physical sensations typical of an activated “flight-or-fight” response (e.g., increased heart rate, breathing rate, muscle tension, sweating, nausea or butterflies in the stomach). When we sense these things happening in our bodies, we can help tame it with deep breathing. Some studies suggest that, in addition to providing immediate relief, deep breathing can eventually make us less vulnerable to stress and emotional triggers, by permanently altering our brain circuits.
Here are a few deep breathing variations to try:
Deep Breathing can help you deal with a stressful situation. It can slow the heartbeat and make you feel calmer.
To perform deep breathing:
- Sit somewhere comfortable (if possible) and consciously relax the upper body.
- Inhale slowly through the nose for a count of four, filling the lungs and allowing your chest and abdomen to expand fully.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of four, emptying the lungs completely. (If it feels more natural to breathe through your nose, that’s ok).
Box Breathing, or square breathing, slows and controls the breathing. It can help reduce stress and boost concentration and focus.
To perform box breathing:
- Sit or stand upright with good posture, with your upper body relaxed.
- Breathe in through the nose for a count of four, filling the lungs.
- Hold the breath in the lungs for a count of four.
- Breathe out slowly through the mouth for a count of four, emptying the lungs fully.
- Wait for a count of four before breathing in again.
Alternate Nostril Breathing helps even out the breathing between the nostrils and slows down the breath to reduce stress.
To perform alternate nostril breathing:
- Close the right nostril with the thumb.
- Breathe in slowly through the left nostril.
- Close the left nostril with the fourth finger and release the thumb.
- Breathe out slowly through the right nostril.
4-7-8 Breathing mindfully focuses on the breath and counting to distract you from worries or stress, and can help you settle your mind for sleep.
To perform 4-7-8 breathing:
- Breathe in through the nose for a count of four.
- Hold the breath for a count of seven.
- Through pursed lips, exhale loudly with a whooshing sound for a count of eight.
These materials are provided to you by Blythedale Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s
Eat Well, Be Well Nutrition Outreach Program.
For more tips and information, please visit Eat Well, Be Well.
Blythedale Children's Hospital, through the generosity of Kohl’s Department Stores, is proud to offer Blythedale and Kohl's Eat Well, Be Well, an innovative outreach program designed to bring health and nutrition education to schools throughout Westchester and Putnam counties. Through this program, Blythedale staff members teach healthy eating habits to children by providing curricula, training and educational tools to school districts throughout the area. The program provides general nutrition guidelines to students, parents and school faculty. Blythedale Children's Hospital offers experts in nutrition and health-education to speak with local parenting groups, PTAs and school personnel.
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