Resources > 4 Breathing Activities to Stay Calm

4 Breathing Activities to Stay Calm

Gabriela Diller, Founder of Lotus Advocacy

Gabriela Diller, Founder of Lotus Advocacy

Published on March 18, 2022 | 3 min read

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THE SCIENCE 

When it comes to stress, there are two important nervous systems working together in our bodies. One is called the sympathetic nervous system, which people remember as the “fight or flight” response. This is the nervous system that would activated if we were to see a bear while hiking. We would immediately jump into survival mode – racing heart, sweaty palms, on high alert, and ready to run or fight to stay safe. The other nervous system is the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as “rest and digest,” which regulates things like our heart rate and digestion. The sympathetic nervous system is like the gas pedal, whereas the parasympathetic is like the brakes. One increases energy for stress and exertion. The other conserves energy and signals relaxation. 

Sometimes our brain tricks us to think we need to activate the sympathetic nervous system like when we’re late and stuck in traffic, or when technology breaks. Our heart might race, our breathing might increase and the body might become tense. But we are not actually in danger. There is no bear. So we need our toolbox of meditation, mindfulness and breathing to activate the parasympathetic nervous system and train the brain to calm down. 

Breathing Activities:

Letting Go Breath

  • Directions: Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. Take a deep breath in through the nose and breathe all the way to the top of your lungs until you can’t take in any more air and then open your mouth, let out a big sigh and push the air out of your lungs using your belly strength. Try this three times. Then notice in your body and in your mind if you feel any different. Do you feel lighter? Do you feel tight in your muscles? Where in your body do you feel tense? Where do you feel light?
  • Optional: Try this activity again. This time, think about something that is making you feel sad, angry or frustrated. Maybe it’s a person or something that happened today or yesterday. Think about it really hard. Notice how thinking about this angry thing makes you feel in your body. Where are you tight? Where are you relaxed? Now imagine breathing in that angry feeling through your nose bringing it inside your body, to the top of your lungs. Hold for a pause. Now let it go. Breathe it out and visualize the angry thing leaving your mind and leaving your body. Do it 2 more times, relaxing your body more and more each time, allowing the angry thing to leave you for today. 

Counting Breath

  • Directions: Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. Together, we are going to inhale and exhale to the count of 4. Ready? Inhale slowly for the count of 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold for a pause. Exhale for the count of 4, 3, 2, 1 and release for a pause. Start again. Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold for a pause. Exhale 4, 3, 2, 1. Repeat this 3 more times. Then notice in your body and in your mind if you feel any different. Do you feel lighter? Do you feel tight in your muscles? Where in your body do you feel tense? Where do you feel light?

Balloon Belly Breathing

  • Directions: Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. Place both hands on your belly. As you inhale, feel your belly fill up with air like a balloon. Hold. Then gently release the air out your mouth, let the belly deflate like a balloon. Breathe in feel the belly fill up. Feel the belly press into your hands. Then release, feel the belly sink back towards your spine. Repeat 3 more times. Then notice in your body and in your mind if you feel any different. Do you feel lighter? Do you feel tight in your muscles? Where in your body do you feel tense? Where do you feel light?

Box Breath

  • Directions: Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the ground if you’re in a chair or sit on the floor criss-cross applesauce. Close your eyes or gaze down. We are going to make a box with our breath, breathing in for 4 counts, holding for 4 counts, exhaling for 4 counts, holding for four counts and then starting again. Ready? Breath in for 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold for 1, 2, 3, 4. Exhale for 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold for 4, 3, 2, 1. Inhale 1, 2, 3, 4. Hold 1, 2, 3, 4. Exhale breath out 4, 3, 2, 1. Hold 4, 3, 2, 1. Repeat 3 more times. Then notice in your body and in your mind if you feel any different. Do you feel lighter? Do you feel tight in your muscles? Where in your body do you feel tense? Where do you feel light?

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