Calm and Collected: 7 Beginner Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

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7 Beginner Breathing Exercises for Anxiety | If you struggle with stress or anxiety on the regular, you've probably heard of the benefits of incorporating deep breathing exercises into your morning and evening routine. Diaphragmatic breathing - or belly breathing - is a great calming tool for adults and kids. This post explains the mental health benefits of deep breathing, with our favorite beginner guided breathing exercises to calm your mind, body, and spirit.

Did you know anxiety is the body’s normal response to stress? It’s true. It activates the fight or flight response to keep us safe and alert when faced with a threat. But this response can also get overwhelming, leading to severe anxiety that can disrupt your life. When this happens, breathing is one of the best ways to alleviate your symptoms. Breathing exercises for anxiety can reduce your heart rate, keep you calm, and are easy to practice at any point you feel anxious. This article will outline several, how to practice them, and the benefits.

What Are ‘Breathing Exercises’?

While breathing keeps us alive, we often go about our days without recognizing or acknowledging how we feel and where our breath is. Therefore, breathing exercises are mindful and conscious practices that teach you how to connect to yourself, control your breath, and receive all the psychological, physical, and emotional benefits.

What Are The Benefits of Using Breathing Exercises for Anxiety?

When you’re stressed or anxious, your breathing tends to be short, shallow, and irregular. It feels horrible, but your body is trying to send more oxygen to your muscles, preparing you to flee. This activation is your sympathetic nervous system, which controls your fight-or-flight response. Yet, shifting your focus to deep, slow and relaxed breathing will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, leading to benefits like reduced stress, calmed nerves, lower pain levels, and improved concentration.

Ready to practice a breathing exercise and feel calmer?

7 Beginner Breathing Exercises for Anxiety

1. Alternate nostrils

Alternative nostril breathing is an easy stress reliever that calms the nervous system. It’s best to practice it while seated to maintain your posture and receive the added benefit of releasing stress in your upper back. 

  1. While seated, ensure your spine is long and rest comfortably in a cross-legged position. 
  2. Position your right hand, and bend your middle and index fingers towards the palm, leaving your thumb, ring finger, and pinky extended. 
  3. Close your eyes.
  4. Place your thumb against your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril.
  5. Then, place your ring finger on your left nostril and remove your thumb. 
  6. Exhale. 
  7. Continue swapping, closing your right nostril with your thumb, opening and exhaling through your left, and inhaling, and vice versa.

It may feel a little tricky at first. Therefore, go slowly and try to practice at least six rounds to ease your anxiety. 

2. Color breathing

Color breathing is a mindful tool that requires your imagination. 

  1. While lying down or seated, choose a color that represents your stress, for example, red or orange. 
  2. Then, as you exhale, imagine you are releasing all of your stress and anxiety. Like a dragon, visualize blowing out red from your entire body, starting from your upper and working down towards your feet. 
  3. Next, choose a color that represents healing and relaxation, like blue or green. 
  4. As you inhale, imagine you are breathing in this calming color into your entire body, starting from the top and working down. 
  5. Try to complete three rounds and have fun working through your colors. 

3. Belly breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, aka belly breathing, is one of the most popular breathing exercises for anxiety. It provides a mind-body connection that taps into your nervous system and signals it to calm down. 

  1. Start by lying on your back or sitting cross-legged, maintaining your posture. 
  2. Close your eyes. 
  3. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. 
  4. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. 
  5. Mindfully focus on your belly rising
  6. Then exhale and feel your belly flatten. 
  7. While inhaling and exhaling, try to keep your hand on your chest still. 
  8. Repeat for ten breaths, and imagine you are inflating and deflating a balloon as you breathe. 

Try practicing this exercise once an hour or a few times a day. When it becomes a habit, you’ll notice you might automatically engage it whenever you feel stressed. 

4. Lion’s breath

Lion’s breath involves forceful exhales. Think long roars but with breathing. 

  1. Kneel in a comfortable sitting position. 
  2. Close your eyes. 
  3. Lengthen through the crown of your head (sitting upright), inhale through your nose, and exhale with your tongue out to vocalize “ha”. 
  4. During your exhale, open your mouth wide and focus on the middle of your forehead (third eye) as you stick your tongue out. Relax your face before inhaling again, and repeat five times for an ultimate lion release.

You may feel slightly weird when you stick your tongue out, but have fun with it! 

5. Three-part breath

Perfect for beginners, Dirga Pranayam, aka three-part breath is a great technique that helps you clear your mind as you focus on your breath moving through your belly and chest. 

  1. Like belly breathing, lay down comfortably or sit cross-legged, maintaining your posture. 
  2. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. 
  3. Then inhale through your belly and focus on moving your breath through your rib cage and upper chest. 
  4. Next, exhale completely, reversing the flow by focusing on the upper chest and rib cage, ending at the belly. 
  5. Continue this process for a total of 10 breaths at your own pace.

6. Box breath

Box breathing uses a 4-4-4-4 ratio and helps calm and balance the mind and body to reduce anxiety, stress, and worry.

  1. Find a comfortable and quiet place to lay down or sit upright cross-legged. 
  2. Take a long deep inhale and count to four slowly. 
  3. Then, pause and count to four as you hold your breath. 
  4. Slowly exhale your breath, counting for four seconds. 
  5. Repeat the process until you feel your anxiety levels decrease.

If possible, practice box breathing in the morning, during work, or afterward to release tension. 

7. Mindful breathing

When your breathing is mindful, deep, and slow, it can significantly decrease your anxiety. 

  1. Sit in an upright position, cross-legged or lying down. 
  2. Focus on your breath and mindfully scan your body as you inhale and exhale normally. 
  3. Then inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. 
  4. Notice your belly and upper body expanding.
  5. Exhale however you like. 
  6. Continue inhaling and exhaling while paying attention to your body. 
  7. Choose an affirmation to focus on, “I am safe” or “I am calm”. 
  8. Imagine your exhale releasing any negative thoughts, and your inhale bringing a sense of calm throughout your body. 
  9. When you get distracted, gently bring your attention to your breath or your chosen affirmation.
  10. Practice this technique for as long as you want or until you feel relaxed.

While there are so many practices available, there is no one technique that will work for everyone. Play around with the breathing exercises for anxiety in this article and practice one that feels the most natural to you. Note how you feel when practicing, and make any adjustments as needed. If you want to learn more about how to decrease your anxiety, practice cognitive behavioral therapy activities or include a few tips to manage morning anxiety.

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7 Beginner Breathing Exercises for Anxiety | If you struggle with stress or anxiety on the regular, you've probably heard of the benefits of incorporating deep breathing exercises into your morning and evening routine. Diaphragmatic breathing - or belly breathing - is a great calming tool for adults and kids. This post explains the mental health benefits of deep breathing, with our favorite beginner guided breathing exercises to calm your mind, body, and spirit.

And if you’re looking for more tips and ideas to help you live your best life please follow our Mental Health board where we share all kinds of helpful ideas we find each day!

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