Even though breathing is an unconscious act, it might interest you to know that how you are breathing plays an important role in how you are thinking and feeling. The good news is that once you become aware of how different styles of breathing impact on you differently, you can learn to consciously adjust the way you are breathing to help you better cope with stressful situations!
There are two basic types of breathing, thoracic breathing and diaphragmatic breathing.
Thoracic breathing - This style of breathing is typically shallow and slightly faster paced. It draws the air into the chest area and upper lobes of the lungs.
Diaphragmatic breathing - This style of breathing is generally slower and deeper. Flowing from down towards the abdomen, this style of breathing reaches into the lower lobes of the lungs.
Next time you are feeling stressed, anxious, scared or angry, take a moment to notice how you are breathing. You may be surprised to find that you have reverted to thoracic breathing. It is quite natural to do this and is part of the body's flight or fight response, however this type of breathing decreases the level of carbon dioxide in your blood and works to emphasise the heightened emotion you are experiencing.
When we are relaxed and calm, like when we are sleeping, our more natural and relaxed way of breathing is diaphragmatic breathing. This style of breathing encourages maximum oxygen intake as well as carbon dioxide exchange.
So next time you notice that you are experiencing a heightened negative emotion, and that your breathing has become short and shallow, try to consciously slow and deepen your breath. You can do this by relaxing your belly and allowing your breath to flow all the way down there (you will feel your belly rise and fall with each breath). Try to keep this process as relaxed as possible and you will notice that it helps calm your body and your mind, making your thoughts clearer and you better able to deal with you present situation.