Being mindful about breathing

September 04, 2019
By Lacy Wolff
sidewalk art: inhale and exhaleHave you ever noticed how you breathe at the end of the day to relax? You may let out a big sigh of relief. We sometimes use the word “phew” to indicate “I made it” or “I’m so relieved.”

This “phew,” or long slow exhale:
  • helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate, 
  • improves digestive function and
  • prepares the body to recover from the day’s activity.
Learning and practicing a breathing technique is life changing, giving an instant boost to health and immune function.

Here are three simple steps to start using this technique today:

Be aware of how you are breathing. Understanding that at any given time, your breath is changing in response to your thoughts and what is going on around you is the first step in changing. First, notice how you are breathing.

Breathe consciously. Deciding to breathe in a certain way will immediately impact the way you feel and will turn down the intensity of feelings like anxiety, fear, frustration, anger, jealousy and others.

Try a technique. Depending on the outcome you are looking for, there are several techniques you can use. Here are a couple:
  • For relaxation, try the 4-7-8 breath. Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight. Repeat up to 10 rounds. This may be helpful when you are trying to sleep at night, lower blood pressure, or just calm down before or after a stressful event.
  • For performance enhancement, try breathing in for a count of five and out for a count of five. Repeat five to 10 rounds or as needed. This technique creates a balance in your nervous system and will allow the higher-level-thinking part of your brain to work for you.
Taking a moment to control your breathing makes a difference in the way you feel in the moment and will immediately reduce blood pressure and heart rate, and help improve your response to stressful events.

photo of Lacy Wolff
 Lacy Wolff is the health promotion administrator for the Texas Employees Group Benefits Program (GBP).