Breathing is a necessity of living. We need oxygen to keep our blood flowing. When we pause and take a deep breath, it fills more than just our lungs. It gives us capacity to live; it awakens our senses.
take a deep breath
Taking the time to breathe deeply gives us the space to take in life fully. Imagine canoeing down a river, the current pushing you along at a good clip, rapids greeting you at each bend, pools of swirling spray coming at you. Though exciting, the constant motion can overwhelm you. Remember, though, you can always paddle off to the side into a calm, shaded eddy. Where you can stop. Breathe. Slow all of this down. That’s what taking a deep breath feels like.When we’re stressed, we take shallow breaths. Deep breathing releases stress. Why not try it? Inhale through your nose and feel your abdomen expand. Count to five as you do. One, two, three, four, five. Now hold your breath for five. One, two, three, four, five. And then pace your exhale for even longer. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven… How do you feel?
it’s a brain thing
It should come as no surprise that you’re more at ease. That simple exercise actually feeds your brain. Our automatic breathing is shallow and often rapid. It’s our habit. But the great thing is that breathing is both involuntary and voluntary. Even if only once a day you take a truly deep breath, you will feel the difference.David DiSalvo, science writer and author, explains that controlled breathing triggers something called the parasympathetic nervous system. It stimulates the vagus nerve—a nerve that runs from the base of the brain to the abdomen. It’s responsible for mediating our nervous systems in a variety of ways. The vagus nerve releases a neurotransmitter that helps us feel focused and calm. It can even lower our heart rate. Though a lot to wrap our brains around, the power of taking a deep breath is significant. We have the ability to shift our physiological—and emotional—state almost immediately.
We don't have to think about breathing, of course, but we now know how good it feels when we do. The best part? You can draw a deep breath any time, anywhere. The next time you’re feeling out of sorts, uninspired, or simply craving calm, why not pull off into the eddy and start counting?