Breathing lessons

Low angle view of senior female friends riding bicycle against sky

The average person takes between 17,000 and 23,000 breaths per day, but there is a good chance we don’t always breathe the right way. Chalk it up to how we deal with stress.

“When we feel something as a threat, our fight-or-flight response automatically kicks in,” says Dr. Katherine Rosa, with the Harvard-affiliated Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine. “Our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow and our hearts beat faster, all of which prepares us to run away from the threat.”

Feel it in your belly

Of course, most of us don’t need to regularly fight or flee to escape predators anymore. Our threats now come from such sources of stress as incoming e-mails, phone calls, and traffic jams.

“Your fight-or-flight response is meant to be a short-term reaction that comes and goes,” says Dr. Rosa. “But today, we are surrounded by so many stressors that we constantly stay in this state of tension. It doesn’t turn off, and we often don’t even notice it.” One solution to alleviating this stress reaction is to change how you breathe. Instead of breathing from the chest, breathe from the belly.

“If you ever watch sleeping children or animals, they all breathe from the belly and not the chest,” says Dr. Rosa. “This relaxed state is the more normal way to breathe.

When you breathe from the chest, like during the fight-or-flight response to a stressful event or when you exercise, your lungs take in the extra oxygen you need to fuel the heart and muscles.

In contrast, belly breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the head down the neck, through the chest, and to the colon. This activates your relaxation response, reducing your heart rate and blood pressure and lowering stress levels.

Take a breatherIf you are not familiar with belly breathing, try this exercise: sit in a chair, lean forward, and place your elbows on your knees. Then breathe naturally. This position forces you to breathe from the belly, so you know what the sensation feels like.

A mini strategy

A strategy to teach yourself mindful belly breathing is to practice what Dr. Rosa calls “the mini.” Here’s what you do: every time you feel stressed, simply take three slow and controlled deep belly breaths.

“It’s a simple act, but this interrupts the fight-or-flight response and puts it on pause,” says Dr. Rosa. “Over time, belly breathing can buffer your resistance to your fight-or-flight response so you are not as sensitive to stress triggers.”

To help you be more mindful about your breathing pattern, place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. “You want the chest hand to be still and the belly hand to move out like you are blowing up a balloon,” says Dr. Rosa.

She suggests practicing belly breathing throughout the day, such as once every hour or up to 10 to 15 times per day. “As it becomes more of a habit, you can automatically engage belly breathing whenever you face a stressful situation.”

Below are spiritual recipe for health and wellness: Matthew E. McLaren

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love. Ephesians 3:16-17 NIV

 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24 NIV

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1  NIV

For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit? Romans 15:13 NIV

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6 NIV

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:6  NIV

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8-9 NIV

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” John 11:40 NIV

Because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. James 1:3 NIV

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 NIV

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. Romans 14:1 NIV

But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11 NIV

For everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 1 John 5:4 NIV

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:2 NIV

I have set my heart on your laws. Psalm 119:30 NIV

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