How can Mindful Breathing help improve your wellbeing?
In partnership with our friends at Vitality, we look at the benefits that mindful breathing can have on your health and wellbeing.
Take a deep breath. It’s something we tell ourselves when we’re stressed and trying to calm down, but that’s just one of the ways breathing techniques can help regulate emotions and improve your health. Mindful breathing – noticing and controlling your breath – is a proven technique that helps you relax by activating the part of your nervous system that works to relax and slow your body’s response to stress, and helping you let go of negative thought patterns.
“We are often too busy to breathe fully,” says breath coach Rebecca Dennis. “Sometimes we even forget to take a breath at all. Simply by consciously connecting to our breath we can rewire and reset our systems within minutes.”
What is ‘mindful breathing’?
Mindful breathing, or breathwork, is literally just that – being aware of the way you are breathing. It’s been used in meditation and yoga for hundreds of years, but today the research shows that mindful breathing really does seem to help with mental health issues like chronic anxiety, depression, PTSD and acute stress. Recent studies even suggest that deep, slow-breathing routines can help manage pain and lead to lower heart rates and blood pressure in patients with heart disease.
Could mindful breathing help with my sleep?
Having some trouble sleeping? Breathing techniques are a great way of getting to sleep – and staying there once you’ve nodded off. Studies show that 20 minutes of slow-breathing exercises before going to sleep is enough to help insomniacs get to sleep faster, wake up less frequently in the night and then go back to sleep faster if they did wake up. The reason? It’s all down to the ability of mindful breathing to help your nervous system move into relaxation mode, and the calming effect of the focused breathing itself.
Will mindful breathing help me worry less?
Our brain’s ability to focus is limited, so by concentrating on our breathing, we can actively push out worries and stresses. Research shows that mindful breathing may not only help both with occasional, acute stress, like taking an exam, or giving a presentation, but also with lingering worries. Why? “We have around 50,000 thoughts a day and not all of them are supportive. This can leave us feeling drained or lying awake at night,” says Rebecca Dennis. “Mindful breathing allows us to let go of those ruminating thoughts, and brings clarity, positivity, confidence and energy.”
How do I do it?
If you have a Venu, vívoactive 4 or a watch from our fēnix 6 series, you can use the Breathwork activity to practice three different breathing techniques — tranquillity, coherence, and relax and focus.
If you have a different model of watch, below is a guide to each of the techniques for you to give a try yourself. If you feel awkward at first, don’t give up. Like any other exercise, it takes practice.
This 10-minute technique puts you in a ready state for sleep:
- Breathe out and empty the lungs of air
- Inhale through the nose for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for a count of 7 seconds
- Exhale through the mouth for 8 seconds
- Repeat for up to 10 minutes
This 15-minute activity should help you feel balanced and calm, rather than excited or overly relaxed:
- Focus on your natural breaths to begin with, and count the length of each inhale and exhale
- Breathe in for 4 seconds and then out for four seconds, repeating this rhythm for one minute
- Repeat the above, but extend to 5 seconds in and out, again for one minute
- Then extend your breaths for 6 seconds in and out, and continue for up to 13 minutes
Relax and Focus
This is a 5-minute technique, meant to put you in state of focus and concentration without stress, and is sometimes referred to as “box breathing”:
- Close your eyes and breathe in for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Exhale for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath again for 4 seconds
- Repeat the steps for up to 5 minutes
A message from our friends at Vitality:
To help encourage an active lifestyle, Vitality offers people the chance to earn weekly rewards for getting active.
Enjoy the weekly rewards from Vitality partners like Caffè Nero and Rakuten TV with a free 3-week trial, and for those who love the rewards and take out a Vitality life insurance policy after the trial, they’ll also get a £250 Garmin voucher from Vitality. Just another way that Vitality are sharing the benefits of healthy living.