We all know the cliche scene in movies where someone is stressed out and hyperventilating into a paper bag in order to calm down and catch their breath. Although this technique is not super effective, it does have some merit.
Gratitude breathing, a form of meditation, has a rich history throughout many cultures. It has deep roots in many different ancient eastern cultures, philosophies and religions. Sages of old knew that daily breathing meditation helped people in many ways: it kept their digestive systems healthy, their minds sharp, and their emotions balanced. It also served as a way for people to calm their minds and pray.
In support of these ancient ideas, modern science confirms that gratitude breathing has many benefits.
Seven Benefits of Gratitude Breathing
- Increased oxygen supply
All your cells need oxygen. By doing gratitude breathing each day, you can improve the quality of your blood oxygen levels – which improves your brain and your body!
- Calms down stressed nerves
Most of us breathe short, shallow breaths that stimulate the production of stress hormones. But we can learn to to take long, slow breaths that relax our stressed out nerves. Deep, controlled breathing also promotes the release of dopamine, which puts you in a happy mood.
- Relaxes your muscles
When the nerves are calmed down, the muscles naturally follow. Practicing gratitude breathing during stressful times, or just when you’ve been sitting too long, in order to reduce stiffness and enhance overall well-being.
- Lowers blood pressure
When the nerves and muscles are relaxed, the arteries relax and blood flow improves. Gratitude breathing can also naturally lower blood pressure.
- Improves sleep
Sleep issues are not just night time issues. Stress and too much “artificial” energy during daytime hours (hello coffee and energy drinks), also affect sleep. Gratitude breathing during the day and just before going to sleep at night can improve sleep quality.
- Boost self esteem
Gratitude breathing involves intentionally focusing on things you appreciate. With a daily reminder of blessings and happy feelings, the release of dopamine, the “happy neurochemical,” can help you experience more confidence and optimism.
- Keeps the doctor away
Although gratitude breathing can’t be said to cure disease (by our pharmaceutically biased legal standards), it most definitely improves physiological, emotional, and mental functioning. Research has shown time and again that improving your mind through gratitude breathing can help improve your health.
How to do “Gratitude Breathing”
-Find quiet and peaceful place – even if it can just be in your mind!
-Get into a comfortable position in which you can relax your muscles and your mind.
-Play soothing music or enjoy some silence.
-Keep away from any screens or other disruptions.
-Transition breath to deep belly breathing by expanding the diaphragm and not the chest when inhaling. Let the belly fall when exhaling.
-Inhale for four seconds and exhale for four seconds.
-While breathing, gently focus on things that make you happy. When you get distracted, don’t judge yourself. Just notice and gently re-focus on the pleasant thoughts and feelings.
-With each breath that you exhale, let all tension and stress fall out of the body.
Involve your family and friends by making a game of it. Have a treasure hunt each day of beautiful things that you experience. At the end of each day share those treasures with your loved ones, have them share their treasures with you, and gratitude breathe together to build your bonds of appreciation.
Start by doing this for at least 10 minutes each day and build up to 30 minutes per day. It’s okay to split the minutes up in the day if you have a hard time fitting this in in one big chunk of time.