No matter how dedicated you are to your goals, racing thoughts can make it hard for you to focus on anything other than the nebulous events in your future or mistakes of your past. Mindfulness is an incredible tool for remaining in the moment, focusing on what is in front of you, and allowing you to consider how to overcome stress-inducing challenges from a perspective of healthy detachment. As someone responsible for imparting resources and helpful tips to people within the sober living community, it is essential to understand every tool at your disposal. Breathwork is an excellent way to decrease anxiety immediately that can also help sharpen the mind.
A 2014 study by Georgia Regents University and the Shanghai University of Sport reported that “mind-body exercises can […] effectively facilitate the treatment of drug addiction.” Accessory treatments include breathwork, meditation, and other relaxation techniques. Researchers found that mental health treatments had enhanced effects on the participants who used meditation and breathing exercises to treat anxiety, increase attention, and help mitigate other symptoms.
Physical Effects of Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises provide positive effects both immediately and in the long term. In 2017, Harvard Medical School was part of a combined study that found that “diaphragmatic breathing may trigger body relaxation responses and benefit both physical and mental health.” They concluded that “diaphragmatic breathing could improve sustained attention, affect, and cortisol levels.” The positive long- and short-term effects of breathing exercises, as well as mindfulness practices like meditation, yoga, and hypnosis, have been proven repeatedly within the scientific community.
Mental, Physical, and Spiritual Calm
You can use these techniques in any moment to promote mental, physical, and spiritual calm.
By allowing your feelings and sensations to anchor you in the moment, you can improve your mood and clear your thoughts. Mindfulness exercises are free, and anyone can learn to use them effectively. You can do breathing exercises while under intense pressure or in the safety and comfort of your home. No matter where you are, they can promote relaxation, clear thinking, a feeling of connection with the present moment, and a sense of calm.
Three Breathing Exercises to Use Daily
Normalizing mindfulness and breathing exercises in your daily life will make it easier to utilize them when you feel stressed. Instead of making the conscious choice to stop and start breathing deeply, your mind and body will begin to seek out these calming activities automatically. Here are three breathing exercises that you can use daily to relax your body and bring your thoughts back under control:
1. Long Exhales
Deepening your exhale can affect the parasympathetic nervous system, which will calm anxiety and promote relaxation.
Try to exhale all of the air from your lungs.
Inhale naturally, and then press the exhale so that it lasts for slightly longer than your inhale. You can count if that is helpful (e.g., four-count inhale, six-count exhale).
Do this for two to five minutes. If you begin to get dizzy at any point, check that you are not breathing in too deeply. Instead, let your lungs naturally fill with air before pushing the exhale length.
2. Deep Breathing Focus
This exercise requires a comfortable environment where you can sit or lay without being disturbed. The focus on deep breathing will quiet your mind and lower stress responses.
Find a comfortable position.
Focus on all physical sensations during inhaling and exhaling.
Mentally check your body for any areas of unnoticed stress (e.g., tense shoulders, back, or neck).
Exhale comfortably, and pay attention to the way that your stomach and lungs move when you inhale and exhale.
Continue to monitor how your upper body moves when you breathe in.
Say a word as you exhale that evokes positive feelings (e.g., “safe,” “free,” “calm”).
Do this for several minutes. Picture each inhale washing over you like an invisible wave.
Picture each exhale pulling away any negative emotions or sensations.
Keep your thoughts focused on breathing and the way your body is moving.
When possible, practice daily for fifteen to twenty minutes.
3. Resonant (Coherent) Breathing
Coherent breathing can help with calming your thoughts or emotions. You will get the most out of this exercise if you do it somewhere you can relax comfortably.
Lay down and close your eyes.
Keep your mouth closed and breath in through your nose for a six-count. Do not completely fill your lungs.
Exhale for a six-count.
Keep your breathing even and gentle, without forcing the air in and out.
Do this for ten minutes.
Focusing your thoughts on sensations within your body as you do this can increase the positive effects.
Stress can lead to adverse mental and physical symptoms, which may slow or even reverse recovery progress in individuals within a sober living community. By using and sharing practical breathing exercises, you can decrease stress and increase moments of calm. Safety Net Recovery® is a spiritually led community of men who have worked hard to create a place where everyone can find peace and security. All members, including staff and clients, can benefit from the healthy practice of exercising mindfulness. Awareness of the moment can include meditation, spiritual concentration, breathing exercises, or light fitness routines designed to keep your attention within the moment. Deep and focused breathing has immediate positive effects on your mind and body. If you would like to learn more about these techniques and how to teach them to others, reach out today. Safety Net Recovery® is here to help you find out more about how to grow. Contact us at (770) 432-9774.