In extreme circumstances we can live without food for weeks, live without water for days but if we stop breathing for even a few minutes, we will die.
Fortunately, our autonomic nervous system makes the job of breathing an automatic process and we don't have to think about it or include it in our multi-tasking lives. However, when we choose to, we can become aware of our natural breath and influence it if we choose to.
If you are concerned with overcoming addictions, losing weight, preventing unnecessary anxiety or any other condition you might take to a hypnotherapist, you may want to consider paying some attention to your breath. How we breathe affects us in a number of ways, and simply increasing the effectiveness of your breath, can lead you to become healthier, calmer and more relaxed.
If you think of times when you feel stressed, unwell or highly emotional you will realise that this affects your breathing rate, which usually becomes quicker and shallower. Usually this is a temporary change that lasts no more than a few minutes but some people get in the habit of breathing like this and this sends a message to the brain that there is a reason to feel agitated. This puts the body in a condition where the stress response is more easily activated. This is useful if you are in a precarious situation, or about to participate in a competitive activity, but not if you are simply going about your everyday life.
The good news is that just like any other habit, good breathing practices can be learned. When we breathe from the diaphragm (belly breathing) we take in more oxygen and need to take fewer breaths per minute and this has the effect of slowing our heart rate. This effective breathing is better for our health and also has the effort of making us feel calm and relaxed.
Ask your hypnotherapist to teach you some simple breathing exercises and practice these a few times a day until you establish an improved natural breathing habit. It is best to do this when you are relaxed and comfortable when you can enjoy the experience. The secret is to do this before feeling anxious rather than trying to control the breath when you are. Trying to control the breath when it has already increased is difficult and could actually make the problem worse.
About the author
Lesley Lyle is a university trained Clinical Hypnotherapist and Applied Positive Psychologist. She runs well-being clinics in Harley St, and New Forest. She is also a stress management trainer and happiness specialist.
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