The Science and Beauty of breathing
There is a science to breathing and it is important to understand it as you apply and use it in your "Tool Box" of managing your mood, emotions, thoughts, and actions/behaviors.
We often use breathing as a "distraction" from overactive thoughts.... In turn allowing us to focus elsewhere allowing us time to settle before tackling what is next in making a decision or taking the next step.
We often have children take deep breaths to "calm down". Essentially it is a pause, a break, a moment for clarity.
We often take deeper breaths when we are preparing to do something scary (public speaking) or painful (getting a piercing) as a way to "calm down" as well.
These are usually brief and circumstantial, yet can be very effective.
Imagine if you took this approach as a daily habit- a habitual appointment you set with and for yourself to have focused breathing that is intentional and effective to calming your nervous system.
Being able to be so practiced, that when unexpected feelings, sensations, or thoughts occur, you automatically are able to flow ino breath that supports a version of you that has productive outcomes and results in decisions, interactions, and states of being.
Scientifically, what they found was increased activity across a network of brain structures, including the amygdala, when participants breathed rapidly.
Activity in the amygdala suggests that quick breathing rates may trigger feelings like anxiety, anger, or fear.
Other studies have shown that we tend to be more attuned to fear when we’re breathing quickly.
Conversely, it may be possible to reduce fear and anxiety by slowing down our breath.
There is a strong connection between participants’ intentional (that is, paced) breathing and activation in the insula.
The insula regulates the autonomic nervous system and is linked to body awareness.
Prior studies have linked intentional breathing to posterior insular activation, suggesting that paying particular attention to the breath may increase awareness of one’s bodily states—a key skill learned in practices like yoga and meditation.
Finally, researchers have noted that when participants accurately tracked their breath, both the insula and the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain involved in moment-to-moment awareness, were active.
The results of this study support a link between types of breathing (rapid, intentional, and attentional) and activation in brain structures involved in thinking, feeling, and behavior. This raises the possibility that particular breathing strategies may be used as a tool to help people to manage their thoughts, moods, and experiences.
Examples of breathing patterns that calm and settle the nervous system:
Boxed breathing (in 4, hold 4, out 4, pause 4)
Even breaths (in 4, out 4 OR in 6, out 6)
Altnerate nostril breathing (deep inhales in the right nostril, long exhales out the left and alternate)
4, 2, 6 breath (in for 4, hold for 2, out for 6)
Belly breathing.... concentrate on all these breath patterns and normal breathing going past the chest/lunges and filling the belly with inhales and releasing for exhales [also known as liver breathing in African cultures]
How can you incorporate this into your daily practice?
Who can hold you accountable and support you?
How can you track the benefits of it for you?