Ever felt annoyed when someone said “just take a deep breath”? ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
I have. Yet, our breath can be our biggest ally. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Did you know breathing is one of the only functions of the body that is both involuntary and voluntary?
We can consciously breathe and control our breath, thus helping to control our heart rate, improve digestion and immune response. And of course, when we aren’t conscious of our breath, we continue to breathe without even thinking about it. Kind of cool, right?
Deep-breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to come online and counter the fight or flight response to daily stress, which is the sympathetic nervous system. In other words, with deep-breathing, we can activate the relaxation response as the antidote to our fight or flight response.
Your breath is your constant companion. It never leaves you.
One of my favorite exercises and a simple way to do this is to practice soft-belly breathing, as practiced by Dr. James Gordon, author of Transformation. Get more of his self-care resources here! I love that his soft belly breathing combines deep-breathing with active reminders of how the physiology of your body is changing.
Get comfortable and try this exercise below!
Soft Belly Breathing:
Try breathing in through the nose and think “soft” on the inhale, exhale through the mouth and think “belly”. This will help you control your focus and remember to keep a relaxed belly.
If it’s comfortable, close your eyes. Thoughts will come and go, that’s perfectly normal, let them come and go. Bring your mind back to the phrase “Soft….Belly”.
Remember, soft belly breathing like this, slow and relaxed, activates the vagus nerve, which again is the antidote to to the fight-or-flight response and the stress response.
Breathing nice and slow like this also enhances digestion as well as improves our immune response. You’re also relaxing the large muscles in your body and slowing your heart rate.
The vagus nerve is also quieting activity in the amygdala, the part of the emotional brain that handles fear and aggression. Instead, deep-breathing promotes activity in the prefrontal cortex, parts of the brain that correlate with judgment, self-awareness and compassion.
As you continue Soft Belly breathing, you’re relaxing your body. Through a few rounds of breaths, we can create an antidote to the fight fight-flight-or freeze reaction by quieting the activity in the amygdala⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
When we are less activated, it’s easier to connect with others, to read their facial expressions and to have compassion for others and ourselves.⠀⠀
Spend a few more rounds of breath here. When your thoughts wander, come back to the breath and focusing on the word “Soft” on the inhale and “Belly” on the exhale.
Stay with your breath as long as you’d like. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀