Breathe VS Calm

When it comes to managing stress and maintaining a peaceful mindset, there are a variety of techniques that people use. Two popular approaches are deep breathing exercises and calming techniques. While the two may seem interchangeable, they actually work in very different ways to help you stay centered and calm in times of stress. In this article, we'll explore the science behind these techniques, the benefits they offer, and how to use them to improve your overall sense of well-being.

The Science Behind Breathing and Calming Techniques

To understand the different ways in which deep breathing and calming techniques work, it's important to first understand the physiological response that occurs when we experience stress. When we're faced with a stressful situation, our body's natural response is to enter the "fight or flight" mode, which triggers a release of adrenaline and other stress hormones. This response is helpful in certain scenarios, but chronic exposure to stress can lead to a variety of negative health effects, including high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.

Breathing exercises are a simple and effective way to counteract the physiological response to stress. By focusing on slow, deep breaths, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps to lower blood pressure, slow the heart rate, and decrease muscle tension. In contrast, calming techniques are used to direct our attention away from stressors, and towards a more peaceful state of mind. They can range from simple activities like taking a walk or listening to music, to more structured practices like meditation or yoga.

Research has shown that incorporating breathing and calming techniques into our daily routine can have a significant impact on our overall well-being. Studies have found that regular practice of these techniques can improve sleep quality, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and even boost the immune system. Additionally, these techniques can be used in a variety of settings, from the workplace to the classroom, to help manage stress and improve focus and productivity.

How Deep Breathing Can Help You Stay Calm

One of the simplest forms of deep breathing exercises is diaphragmatic breathing, or "belly breathing." This involves breathing deeply through your nose, filling your lungs fully with air, and exhaling slowly through your mouth. By focusing on your breath and the sensation of your diaphragm expanding and contracting, you can shift your attention away from stressors and towards a more peaceful state of mind.

In addition to immediate stress relief, practicing deep breathing regularly can also lead to long-term benefits. Studies have shown that regular deep breathing exercises can help to improve cardiovascular health, boost immune function, and even reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Furthermore, deep breathing can also improve your cognitive function and enhance your ability to focus. When you take deep breaths, you increase the flow of oxygen to your brain, which can help to improve your memory, concentration, and overall cognitive performance. This is why deep breathing exercises are often recommended for students and professionals who need to stay focused and alert for extended periods of time.

Mindfulness Meditation for Stress Reduction

Mindfulness meditation is a type of calming technique that involves focusing your attention on the present moment, without judgment or distraction. By cultivating an awareness of your thoughts and emotions, you can develop a greater sense of inner peace and control, even in the midst of stressful situations.

Research has shown that mindfulness meditation can be an effective way to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and to improve overall well-being. Practicing mindfulness regularly can also help to enhance decision-making skills, increase empathy and compassion, and improve cognitive function.

In addition to its mental health benefits, mindfulness meditation has also been found to have physical health benefits. Studies have shown that regular practice of mindfulness meditation can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve sleep quality. It can also help to alleviate symptoms of chronic pain and improve immune system function. Incorporating mindfulness meditation into your daily routine can have a positive impact on both your mental and physical health.

The Benefits of Yoga for Both Breathing and Calming

Yoga is a practice that combines physical movement with breath and meditation, making it an excellent way to both improve your breathing and induce a sense of calmness. Practicing yoga regularly can help to increase flexibility, improve balance and posture, and reduce muscle tension. It can also provide a sense of mental clarity and focus, helping to reduce stress and anxiety.

Studies have shown that practicing yoga can help to reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress, and can even improve sleep quality. Additionally, regular yoga practice has been linked to better respiratory function, suggesting that the deep breathing techniques used in yoga can have long-term benefits for overall health and well-being.

Another benefit of practicing yoga is that it can help to improve cardiovascular health. The physical movements and deep breathing techniques used in yoga can help to increase blood flow and oxygenation throughout the body, which can improve heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Furthermore, yoga can be a great way to connect with others and build a sense of community. Many yoga classes are designed to be inclusive and welcoming, and can provide a supportive environment for individuals to connect with others who share similar interests and goals. This sense of community can be especially beneficial for individuals who may be struggling with feelings of isolation or loneliness.

How Progressive Muscle Relaxation Can Improve Your Breathing and Calming Practices

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that involves tensing and relaxing muscle groups throughout the body in order to induce a state of relaxation. This technique can be effective in reducing muscle tension, which is a common physical symptom of stress.

To practice progressive muscle relaxation, begin by sitting or lying down in a comfortable position. Start with your toes, and consciously tense the muscles in your feet, holding the tension for a few seconds before releasing. Move up through your body, tensing and releasing muscles in your calves, thighs, abdomen, chest, arms, and forehead. By the end of the exercise, you should feel more relaxed, centered, and peaceful.

Progressive muscle relaxation can also be helpful in improving your breathing practices. When you are stressed or anxious, your breathing can become shallow and rapid, which can exacerbate feelings of tension and anxiety. By practicing progressive muscle relaxation, you can learn to control your breathing and slow it down, which can help you feel more calm and centered. As you tense and release your muscles, focus on taking slow, deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. This can help you regulate your breathing and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Shallow Breathing

Many people who experience anxiety also tend to breathe more shallowly, which can exacerbate symptoms of stress and panic. Shallow breathing can lead to a decreased oxygen supply to the brain, which can trigger feelings of dizziness, shortness of breath, and increased heart rate. Fortunately, the reverse is also true - by consciously slowing down and deepening your breath, you can improve your overall sense of well-being and decrease symptoms of anxiety.

If you're struggling with shallow breathing and anxiety, try incorporating some deep breathing exercises into your daily routine. Start with just a few minutes each day, gradually building up to longer sessions as you become more comfortable.

It's important to note that shallow breathing can also be a symptom of other underlying health conditions, such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you're experiencing persistent shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, it's important to speak with your healthcare provider to rule out any underlying medical issues.

In addition to deep breathing exercises, other relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation can also be helpful in managing symptoms of anxiety and promoting overall relaxation and well-being. It's important to find the techniques that work best for you and incorporate them into your daily routine to help manage symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

Quick Tips to Use When You Need to Quickly Calm Down

While deep breathing, calming techniques, and mindfulness practices can all be effective in reducing stress and improving well-being, sometimes you need a quick hit of calmness in the moment. Here are a few simple tips to use when you need to quickly calm down:

  • Take a few deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body.
  • Practice progressive muscle relaxation, tensing and releasing different muscle groups throughout your body.
  • Visualize a peaceful scene, such as a beach or forest, and focus on the sights, sounds, and smells of that environment.
  • Try a mindful activity, such as coloring, knitting, or even washing the dishes, focusing on the present moment without judgment or distraction.

Another effective way to quickly calm down is to engage in physical activity. This can be as simple as taking a brisk walk or doing a few jumping jacks. Physical activity releases endorphins, which can help reduce stress and improve mood.

In addition, listening to calming music or sounds can also be helpful in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. You can create a playlist of your favorite calming songs or sounds, such as nature sounds or white noise, and listen to it when you need to quickly calm down.

The Role of Diet in Maintaining a Calm Mindset

While breathing exercises, calming techniques, and mindfulness practices can all be effective in reducing stress and promoting well-being, they're not the only factors to consider. Diet also plays a crucial role in maintaining a calm mindset and reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Some foods that are particularly beneficial for stress management include omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, and flaxseeds; complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains and sweet potatoes; dark chocolate, which contains compounds that can reduce cortisol levels; and magnesium-rich foods like spinach and almonds.

The Importance of Sleep for Proper Breathing and Calmness

Sleep is an essential component of overall health and well-being, and is crucial for proper breathing and calmness. When we're sleep-deprived, our bodies are more prone to stress and anxiety, and we may struggle to focus and concentrate throughout the day.

To promote restful sleep and better breathing, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and establish a regular sleep routine. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary snacks in the evenings, and try to wind down with calming activities like reading or taking a warm bath. By prioritizing sleep and relaxation, you'll be better equipped to manage stress and maintain a sense of calm in your daily life.

Final Thoughts

Overall, both deep breathing exercises and calming techniques can be effective strategies for managing stress and maintaining a sense of calm in the midst of daily life. By incorporating these practices into your daily routine, along with other healthy habits like a nutritious diet and regular exercise, you can boost your overall well-being and feel more centered, relaxed, and peaceful.

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