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3 Mindful Breathing Exercises That Reduce Stress in 10 Minutes or Less

woman meditating to calm her overactive mind

Feeling a little stressed?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, more than three quarters of Americans say they’ve felt stressed in the past month, and one quarter say they’ve been extremely stressed.

So how can we experience some calm?

Generally the most effective and simple approach is with breathing exercises.

Why?

Because when the body is stressed it moves into fight or flight mode. While this helps us deal with situations that require quick action, it causes problems when the response is constantly provoked by day-to-day events, such as money issues or relationship woes.

By using breathing techniques, it tricks the body into relaxing.  According to Live Strong, this is because breathing slowly “activates the hypothalamus”, which is connected to the pituitary gland in the brain that then sends out neurohormones that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body.

So without further ado, here are 3 breathing exercises that have been proven to help people calm down:

1. Equal Breathing

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How it’s done: To do this breathing technique, firstly inhale through the nose to a count of 4, then exhale from the nose for a count of 4. If you’re the type who likes to constantly improve at something, then overtime you can increase the number seconds you inhale and exhale for. Just make sure it’s equal. Yogis generally do 6-8 counts per breath. This will help to calm the nervous system and reduce stress.

When should you use it? This is a brilliant technique because you can pretty much do it anywhere and anytime that you feel stressed. It’s also an excellent technique to do before you sleep.

2. Progressive Relaxation

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How it’s done: This is a two-step process. First, you take a big deep breathe in and tense a particular part of your body, such as your hand. After holding that tension for 5 seconds,  release the tension and exhale your breath. As you’re do the 2nd step, you should feel the muscles become loose and limp as the tension flows out. According to the experts, it’s best to breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth.

When should you use it? You can use this anywhere, however it requires slightly more concentration than Equal Breathing, so definitely don’t do this while you’re driving! Also, if you find you’re hurting your muscles while tensing, then tone it down a bit. Hurting your muscles is not the goal.

3. Alternate Nostril Breathing

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How it’s done:  I’m sure you can guess what this technique involves involves from the title. To practice, hold the left thumb over the left nostril and inhale deeply through the right nostril. At the peak of inhalation, close off the right nostril with the ring finger, then exhale through the left nostril.

When you should you use it? According to Yogis, this technique makes you feel more centred and tends to wake up you up. So this is a great one to use before an important meeting, or to get your day off to a great start.

This article was originally published on hackspirit.org. 

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