Breathing is a powerful tool for managing stress, improving respiratory health, and promoting overall wellbeing. From controlled breathing exercises to yoga and meditation, there are a variety of techniques that can be used to promote optimal respiratory function and reduce stress and anxiety.
Whether you're recovering from COVID-19 or simply looking to improve your respiratory health, incorporating breathing techniques into your daily routine can help to improve your physical and mental health. If you're interested in more than breathing, check out our blog 7 Tips on Personal Wellbeing.
In this blog, we'll explore 39 different breathing techniques that you can try at home to promote optimal respiratory health, reduce stress, and improve overall wellbeing.
1. Practice controlled breathing exercises
Controlled breathing exercises, such as box breathing and alternate nostril breathing, involve taking slow, deep breaths to calm the mind and body. Controlled breathing has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep quality. To practice controlled breathing, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and take slow, deep breaths, focusing on the feeling of the air entering and leaving your body.
2. Try 5-minute cyclic sighing
5-minute cyclic sighing, also known as physiological sighing, is a breathing technique that involves taking two quick, deep breaths followed by a long exhale. This technique has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and promote relaxation. To practice 5-minute cyclic sighing, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and take two quick, deep breaths followed by a long exhale. Repeat for 5 minutes.
3. Use box breathing
Box breathing is a breathing technique used to calm the mind and body. It involves taking a deep breath in for four seconds, holding the breath for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds, and holding for four seconds before taking the next breath. Box breathing can be done anywhere, anytime, and is a quick and easy way to relieve stress and anxiety.
4. Practice cyclic hyperventilation with retention
Cyclic hyperventilation with retention is a breathing technique that involves taking quick, deep breaths followed by holding the breath for as long as possible. This technique has been shown to increase alertness, reduce anxiety, and promote relaxation. To practice cyclic hyperventilation with retention, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and take quick, deep breaths followed by holding the breath for as long as possible. Repeat for a few minutes.
5. Use the physiological sigh technique
The physiological sigh technique, also known as the double inhale, is a breathing technique that involves taking two quick, deep breaths followed by a long exhale. This technique has been shown to reset the nervous system and offload excess carbon dioxide from the body, promoting relaxation and calmness. To practice the physiological sigh technique, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and take two quick, deep breaths followed by a long exhale. Repeat for a few minutes.
6. Try three-part breath
Three-part breath, also known as dirga pranayama, is a yogic breathing technique that involves breathing deeply into the belly, then the ribcage, and finally the chest, before exhaling slowly. This technique can reduce stress and anxiety, increase lung capacity, and promote relaxation. To practice three-part breath, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and breathe deeply into your belly, then your ribcage, and finally your chest before exhaling slowly.
7. Use alternate nostril breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is a yogic breathing technique that involves breathing through one nostril while blocking the other nostril with your finger, then switching sides. This technique can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and promote relaxation. To practice alternate nostril breathing, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and breathe in through one nostril while blocking the other nostril with your finger. Switch sides and repeat for a few minutes.
8. Practice expand ribcage breathing
Expand ribcage breathing, also known as thoracic breathing, involves breathing deeply into the ribcage to increase lung capacity and improve breathing. This technique can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. To practice expand ribcage breathing, find a quiet space, sit in a comfortable position, and breathe deeply into your ribcage, feeling it expand as you inhale. Exhale slowly and repeat for a few minutes.
Mindfulness and meditation
9. Practice mindfulness meditation
Mindfulness meditation is a technique used to help focus on the present moment and pay attention to thoughts and emotions without judgment. It involves sitting quietly and focusing on breathing while acknowledging and releasing any thoughts that arise. This practice can help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall mental health. To start, find a quiet place to sit or lie down, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Try to pay attention to the sensations in your body and any thoughts or emotions that arise without judging or trying to change them.
10. Practice passive observation of the breath
Passive observation of the breath is a form of mindfulness meditation that involves simply observing the breath without trying to control it. It can help calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. To practice passive observation of the breath, find a quiet place to sit or lie down and focus on your breath. Try to simply observe the sensations of the breath without trying to control it in any way.
11. Use guided meditation
Guided meditation is a type of meditation that is led by a teacher or recorded guide. It can help reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall mental health by providing a structured practice and guiding the mind towards a state of relaxation and calmness. To start, find a guided meditation online or through an app and listen to it in a quiet place with minimal distractions. Allow yourself to fully engage in the guided meditation and follow along with the teacher's instructions.
12. Practice sensing sensations of the breath
Sensing sensations of the breath is a form of mindfulness meditation that involves focusing on the physical sensations of breathing. It can help calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. To practice sensing sensations of the breath, find a quiet place to sit or lie down and focus on your breath. Try to notice the physical sensations of breathing, such as the movement of the chest or abdomen, the temperature of the air entering and leaving the body, and any other sensations that arise.
13. Incorporate NSDR into your day (Non-sleep deep rest)
Non-sleep deep rest is a state of consciousness that allows the body to deeply relax and release stress without falling asleep. This technique is important because it helps to reduce stress, improve focus, and increase overall well-being. To achieve non-sleep deep rest, one can try progressive muscle relaxation, visualization, or guided meditation. Simply find a quiet and comfortable place to sit or lie down, close your eyes, and focus on your breath or a guided meditation. With regular practice, you can reap the benefits of non-sleep deep rest in just a few minutes a day.
14. Practice Yoga Nidra
Yoga Nidra is a meditative practice that involves a guided relaxation technique that aims to take the practitioner into a deep state of consciousness. It involves lying down in a comfortable position, following the guidance of a teacher, and letting go of physical, emotional, and mental tension. Yoga Nidra is essential for reducing stress, anxiety, and improving sleep quality. To try it, find a quiet, comfortable space, lie down, and follow a guided Yoga Nidra meditation. There are many available online, and it is recommended to listen with headphones for an optimal experience.
15. Practice yoga
Practice yoga is a great way to improve breathing while also promoting relaxation and flexibility. Many yoga poses incorporate deep breathing and help to strengthen the respiratory muscles. Regular practice can lead to improved lung capacity and breathing patterns, which can in turn improve overall health and reduce stress. A reader can try a simple yoga breathing exercise, such as the "3-part breath" or "alternate nostril breathing," which can be done sitting or lying down and can help calm the mind and body.
16. Exercise regularly
Exercise regularly is an important way to improve overall health and well-being, including respiratory function. Regular aerobic exercise can help to strengthen the respiratory muscles and increase lung capacity, allowing for more efficient breathing. It can also reduce stress and improve mental health, both of which can have a positive impact on breathing. A reader can start by incorporating 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise into their daily routine, such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling.
17. Practice diaphragmatic breathing during physical activity
Practice diaphragmatic breathing during physical activity involves focusing on breathing from the diaphragm during exercise. This can help to improve breathing efficiency and endurance, as well as reduce the risk of injury or discomfort. A reader can try a simple diaphragmatic breathing exercise, such as breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth while focusing on expanding the belly on inhale and contracting it on exhale.
18. Swim regularly
Swim regularly is another great way to improve respiratory health and breathing efficiency. Swimming can help to strengthen the respiratory muscles and increase lung capacity, as well as improve overall cardiovascular health. Additionally, the humid environment of the pool can help to reduce inflammation in the airways and improve breathing. A reader can start by incorporating regular swimming sessions into their weekly routine, aiming for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity swimming each session.
Posture and body awareness
19. Practice good posture
Practice good posture involves maintaining the proper alignment of the body while standing, sitting or lying down. Poor posture can contribute to breathing difficulties, muscle strain, and chronic pain. It's important to practice good posture to help maintain proper breathing, reduce muscle tension and prevent the onset of pain. To practice good posture, try to maintain a neutral spine position by aligning your head, neck, shoulders, and hips. Keep your shoulders down and back and avoid slouching or arching the back.
20. Learn how to properly engage the diaphragm
Learning how to properly engage the diaphragm involves activating the primary muscle responsible for breathing. The diaphragm is a large muscle located just beneath the lungs that contracts and relaxes to control breathing. Properly engaging the diaphragm can help improve breathing efficiency and reduce stress. To engage the diaphragm, take slow, deep breaths and focus on allowing your stomach to expand as you inhale and contract as you exhale.
21. Practice body scanning
Practice body scanning involves becoming more aware of physical sensations and reactions to stress. This can help identify areas of tension or discomfort in the body and promote relaxation. To practice body scanning, find a comfortable position and slowly scan your body from head to toe, focusing on each area and noticing any sensations, tensions or discomfort. Try to breathe deeply and relax each area as you become aware of it.
22. Try to notice physical sensations and reactions to stress
Try to notice physical sensations and reactions to stress involves paying attention to how stress affects the body. This can help identify early warning signs of stress and help manage stress before it becomes overwhelming. To do this, take a few moments to sit quietly and observe the body. Notice any physical sensations such as muscle tension, shallow breathing, or a racing heartbeat. Try to take slow, deep breaths and consciously relax any areas of tension.
Mental health and stress management
23. Seek professional help if necessary
Seek professional help if necessary: If you feel that you are struggling with stress, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns, it's important to seek professional help. A licensed therapist or counselor can help you develop coping strategies, identify triggers, and provide tools to manage your mental health. Don't hesitate to reach out for help if you need it.
24. Practice breathing exercises when feeling stressed or anxious
Practice breathing exercises when feeling stressed or anxious: One of the most effective ways to manage stress and anxiety is by practicing breathing exercises. Controlled breathing can help regulate your nervous system, reduce tension in the body, and promote a sense of calm. When you feel overwhelmed, take a moment to focus on your breath. Try taking a few slow, deep breaths or practicing one of the breathing techniques mentioned earlier.
25. Use controlled breathing to manage stress and anxiety
Use controlled breathing to manage stress and anxiety: Controlled breathing is an important tool for managing stress and anxiety. By regulating your breathing, you can calm your nervous system, reduce tension in the body, and promote a sense of calm. Incorporate breathing exercises into your daily routine or try one of the breathing techniques mentioned earlier.
26. Practice gratitude and mindfulness
Practice gratitude and mindfulness: Practicing gratitude and mindfulness can be a powerful way to manage stress and improve mental health. Take a few moments each day to reflect on what you're grateful for or to focus on the present moment. This can help shift your mindset from negative to positive and promote feelings of happiness and contentment. Try keeping a gratitude journal or practicing mindfulness meditation.
27. Practice breathing exercises to improve lung function after COVID-19
COVID-19 can have a serious impact on lung function and cause long-term respiratory issues. Breathing exercises can help improve lung function and capacity, promoting better oxygen intake and reducing symptoms of shortness of breath. Some effective exercises include diaphragmatic breathing, pursed lip breathing, and deep breathing. Practicing these exercises regularly can help improve respiratory function and overall health. To get started, find a quiet space and practice a few rounds of deep breathing exercises, focusing on expanding your diaphragm and filling your lungs with air.
28. Seek professional medical advice if experiencing difficulty breathing after COVID-19
If you have recently recovered from COVID-19 and are experiencing ongoing symptoms such as difficulty breathing, it is important to seek professional medical advice. Respiratory issues can have serious health consequences and may require medical intervention. Your healthcare provider can assess your symptoms and recommend appropriate treatment, which may include breathing exercises, medication, or other interventions. Don't hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing ongoing respiratory symptoms after recovering from COVID-19.
29. Use moonbird breathing device
Use moonbird breathing device: The moonbird breathing device is a small, handheld device designed to improve breathing and lung function. It works by using a simple resistance valve to create positive pressure in the airways during exhalation, which helps to increase lung capacity and oxygenation. Using a moonbird device regularly can help to strengthen respiratory muscles and improve overall respiratory function.
30. Avoid over-focusing on breath during breathing exercises
Avoid over-focusing on breath during breathing exercises: While it's important to pay attention to your breath during breathing exercises, over-focusing on your breath can actually be counterproductive. Over-focusing can lead to feelings of anxiety or even hyperventilation. Instead, try to adopt a relaxed, non-judgmental awareness of your breath, simply observing it without trying to change it.
31. Avoid forcing breath to be slower or deeper than natural
Avoid forcing breath to be slower or deeper than natural: Trying to force your breath to be slower or deeper than what comes naturally can lead to feelings of tension or anxiety. Instead, allow your breath to flow at its own pace and depth, simply observing it without trying to change it. This can help to promote a sense of relaxation and calm.
32. Take short breathing breaks throughout the day
Take short breathing breaks throughout the day: Taking short, intentional breathing breaks throughout the day can help to reduce stress and increase focus. Simply take a few deep breaths, paying attention to the sensations of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. You can do this anywhere, anytime, for a quick and easy way to promote relaxation and mental clarity.
33. Avoid mouth breathing
Avoid mouth breathing: Breathing through your mouth can lead to a host of negative health consequences, including poor oxygenation, dry mouth, and even dental issues. Instead, try to breathe through your nose whenever possible, as this helps to filter and humidify the air, while also promoting optimal oxygenation.
34. Increase water intake
Increase water intake: Proper hydration is essential for overall health and wellbeing, including respiratory health. Aim to drink at least 8 glasses of water per day, and more if you're engaging in physical activity or live in a dry or arid climate. This can help to keep your respiratory tract moist and promote healthy lung function.
35. Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption
Reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption: Both caffeine and alcohol can have negative effects on respiratory health. Caffeine can act as a stimulant, increasing heart rate and breathing rate, while alcohol can depress the central nervous system, leading to shallow breathing and poor oxygenation. Limiting your intake of these substances can help to promote optimal respiratory health.
36. Get enough sleep
Get enough sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for overall health and wellbeing, including respiratory health. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and try to establish a consistent sleep routine that allows for restful and restorative sleep. This can help to promote healthy lung function and optimal respiratory health.
37. Seek out fresh air and avoid pollutants
Seek out fresh air and avoid pollutants: Exposure to air pollutants can have negative effects on respiratory health, leading to lung damage and other respiratory conditions. Whenever possible, seek out fresh air and avoid areas with high levels of air pollution. You can also use air filters or purifiers in your home to promote clean air and optimal respiratory health.
38. Practice mindful breathing while performing everyday tasks
Practice mindful breathing while performing everyday tasks: Incorporating mindful breathing into your daily routine can help to promote relaxation and mental clarity. Try to pay attention to your breath while performing everyday tasks such as washing dishes, walking, or sitting at your desk. Simply observe the sensations of your breath as it enters and leaves your body, without trying to change it.
39. Use breathwork to improve sleep
Use breathwork to improve sleep: Breathwork techniques such as deep breathing, box breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation can be effective tools for improving sleep quality and reducing insomnia. Incorporating these techniques into your bedtime routine can help to promote relaxation and mental clarity, leading to restful and restorative sleep.
7 tips on personal wellbeing
Here are 7 tips for your personal wellbeing:
The research on sleep and wellbeing is staggering. One of the highlights for me was reading that a high school student would be better off getting to bed two hours early to get extra sleep than staying up two extra hours cramming for study.
I wish I'd known this when I was in high school! Sleep is that beneficial. You wouldn't go to work drunk, but sleep deprivation is in the ballpark in how it affects us.
2. Clear role descriptions
Steven Furtick explains frustration as the gap between expectations and experience.
If you're frustrated at work, it may be due to a gap between the expectations of your role and the experience of your role. Clarify your role description to help narrow the gap, reduce your frustration and improve your wellbeing.