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Why Breathing Matters in Mindfulness

Breathing is at the core of mindfulness practices. As you improve your breathing technique, you enhance the mindfulness meditation experience. Breathing is essentially about control and attention. When you can control your attention, you can focus on what is truly important throughout your daily life.

Increased Ability to Focus

Mindfulness breathing exercises can help increase a person’s ability to focus, according to this study. Controlled breathing can affect a person’s levels of norepinephrine, which is also referred to as the stress hormone. When your body transmits this chemical compound, your heart rate rises.

The researchers explain that if the right amount of noradrenaline is released, it can create a new connection between the brain’s neurons. The study is mainly focused on how the levels of the noradrenaline change in the area of the brain called locus coeruleus (LC).

The locus coeruleus is the principal place of norepinephrine production in the brain, but it is also known to incorporate our ability to focus and breathe. The lead author of the study explains “that our attention is influenced by our breath and that it rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. It is possible that by focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimise your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronised.”

When you can control your breathing, you can control your focus. Get the most out of your working hours by learning to regulate your breath.

Increase Ability to Manage Emotional Reactions

Practicing mindful breathing can help you to manage difficult emotions. When presented with a difficult situation, or if you notice negative emotions, stop for a moment, take a deep breath, and concentrate on the negative energy. Don’t try to stop it or distract yourself immediately, but acknowledge it.

Mindfulness breathing as a way to manage emotion can also be referred to as emotional self-control. It helps you to recognize upsetting situations and feelings, to learn not to judge your feelings, and to guide yourself to a more productive frame of mind. The more you practice mindful breathing, the easier it will become to manage your emotional reactions to stressful or unpleasant situations.

Relieve Stress and Establish Calm

When you practice mindfulness meditation breathing techniques, you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). This system triggers responses allowing the body to relax, causing your heart rate to slow down and your blood pressure to lower. When you practice deep and peaceful breathing, your body promotes a sense of calmness.

In a study conducted on a group of university students, a portion of the group experienced lower levels of stress and increased feelings of relaxation. Results showed that breathing exercises effectively improved mood and stress, which was determined by student self-reports and heart rate and cortisol level measurements.

Be Present

Stop regretting the past; stop worrying about the future; be in the present moment and focus on what’s most important now.
Mindfulness is a state of mind that allows us to pay attention. It helps us to remain focused on the moment, not in the past or the future. It can also help you make better decisions that aren’t influenced by emotions or clouded by thoughts about the past and future. Being in the present moment can also be described as living without judgment or criticism, particularly of yourself.

Most people struggle to be mindful and live in the present moment. That’s why a lot of people can benefit from and improve their lives with mindfulness and breathing practices. You can enhance your relationships with your coworkers, friends, and family when you learn to live in the moment, making sound decisions based on rational thought and enjoying the experiences before you. Even just a minute of deep breathing in an upsetting or distracting moment can help you reset and refocus on what matters.

Access Higher Functions of the Brain

By stopping emotional reactions triggered by the primitive part of our brain, we can access higher functions of the brain in the prefrontal cortex.

A Harvard study found that mindfulness meditation, paired with mindful breathing, can actually alter the brain structure. Over several weeks of experimental mindfulness stress reduction, the cortical thickness of the hippocampus increased. This portion of the brain helps with learning and memory. The study also found a decrease in fear, stress, and anxiety in participants.

So take a deep breath (or many) in a stressful situation and see for yourself the changes it can bring to the moment you are in.

If you would like to experience the benefits of mindfulness meditation breathing right now, try out our Sample Breathing Meditation to see for yourself how your breathing can help you control your attention.

For other valuable articles on Mindfulness practices, visit our Ultimate Guide to Mindful Leadership.

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