Looking for a relaxation technique? “Diaphragmatic breathing” (also known as deep breathing or belly breathing) is a great exercise for those of you who experience high stress or anxiety. This strategy may help to relax and calm your body and your mind. Diaphragmatic breathing can also serve as a technique to centre your attention to the present moment
(bringing the attention to your breathing) and increase feelings of control when you feel overwhelmed and tense.
Tips before trying this exercise:
- Find a quiet and comfortable environment.
- Take your time with each step.
- If you ever feel light-headed, dizzy, or uncomfortable, stop and try again at a different time.
- When first trying this exercise, you can practice even when you are not feeling anxious 2-3 times a day. As you practice more, the relaxation response will come more quickly.
Instructions for Diaphragmatic Breathing:
- Find a comfortable position, sitting in a chair with your back and feet supported or lying down on your back.
- Put one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose. When breathing in, try to take the breath in through your stomach so that your stomach pushes your hand away while the hand on your chest should be moving minimally (this helps achieve deep belly breathing instead of shallow and more laboured breathing through your chest).
- Tips: imagine pure and clear air filling up all the way to the base of your lungs as you breathe in.
- Breathe out slowly through your nose or mouth. You can also try breathing out through pursed lips (like when you are trying to blow out a candle).
- Tips: imagine all your stress and anxiety leaving your body with your breath out like a gray mist.
- Repeat steps 2-4 for 3-10 times. Take breaks in between every 2-3 deep breaths if needed, to prevent feelings of light-headedness or dizziness. You can practice this exercise 3 times a day or as often as needed.
As mentioned earlier, diaphragmatic breathing is a great way to calm your body and bring your attention and awareness to your breathing. Another technique for relaxation that I personally enjoy is body scan meditation. If you are interested in trying body scan meditation, this link leads to a pretty good body scan meditation exercise that you can check out https://www.mindful.org/beginners-body-scan-meditation/
You can also check out my previous post on How to: Progressive Muscle Relaxation for another effective relaxation technique. I hope that you can find some ease and relaxation in your day with one of these techniques! 🙂
Please read: You should not feel any discomfort or pain. Stop if anything feels uncomfortable for you. If you are unsure or have any questions about this exercise, remember to consult a registered physiotherapist or a physician before trying them out! I am always excited to hear from my readers! Please visit Contact if you have any questions, comments or feedback for me 🙂
PDF Handouts for Download:
Chen, Y. F., Huang, X. Y., Chien, C. H., & Cheng, J. F. (2017). The effectiveness of diaphragmatic breathing relaxation training for reducing anxiety. Perspectives in psychiatric care, 53(4), 329-336.
Kim, S., Roth, W. T., & Wollburg, E. (2015). Effects of therapeutic relationship, expectancy, and credibility in breathing therapies for anxiety. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 79(2), 116-130.