Your breath is like your secret weapon. It will keep you calm, centered and grounded in even the most stressful situations. It can help you sleep better, regulate your hormones, cope with anxiety or depression, and mitigate the negative effects of stress on your body.

Have you ever noticed sometimes that you hold your breath? Or maybe breathe shallowly? This is a physiological reaction to stress and unwanted emotions. Shallow breathing keeps us in a stressed fight, flight or freeze mode, also known as a sympathetic dominant state. Instead of helping us cope with stress and emotions, it keeps them locked inside, where they only build up and get worse.

Deep breathing does the opposite. It acts like the waves in the ocean. Stress comes in, stress goes out. Thoughts come in, thoughts go out. Emotions come in, emotions go out. By allowing for this natural flow to occur, we become more present in the moment. We experience life more fully, and help bring our mind-body being into a greater state of health and well-being.

This is no hokey-pokey new age thing. Research has proven the physiological benefits of deep breathing, including:

  • Prevents physiological damage from chronic stress.
  • Regulates cortisol levels and hormones.
  • Alters gene expression involved in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion.
  • Stimulates the secretion of Acetylcholine, which helps decrease feelings of anxiety and depression
  • Lowers blood pressure, heart rate and helps decrease risk of stroke and aneurysms
  • Increases brain size. Research shows a thickening in the gray matter of the brain (which normally becomes thinner as we age) in those who practice deep breathing or meditation over time.

Take a Deep Breath

Place one hand over your diaphragm. On the inhale, breathe in and feel your belly expanding like you’re filling up a balloon. You should feel your hand moving out a couple of inches. Hold the breathe for a few seconds. On the exhale, breathe out, and let your belly recede back in. You should feel your hand moving back in towards your body.

That’s it. Super simple. You can do it anytime, anywhere.

Start by practicing 10 minutes a day. It can be at night before you go to bed or at any other time of the day that is convenient.

Try to increase your awareness of your breathing during the day when you are involved in your daily activities. You can take a few deep breaths while you’re stuck at a stoplight, in line at the supermarket, or any time you feel stressed or out of balance.