Diaphragm breathing, also known as deep breathing or belly breathing, is a relaxation technique that involves taking slow, deep breaths using the diaphragm muscle located in the lower abdomen. This technique is often used to reduce stress and anxiety and can be a simple yet effective way to promote relaxation and calmness.
When we breathe deeply using the diaphragm, we activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body's rest and digest response. This response can help to counteract the effects of the body's stress response, which can include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and muscle tension.
Research has shown that diaphragm breathing can be effective in reducing symptoms of stress and anxiety. For example, a study published in the Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing found that deep breathing exercises were effective in reducing stress and anxiety in patients undergoing hemodialysis. Another study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research found that deep breathing exercises were effective in reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression in patients with major depressive disorder.
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, find a comfortable seated or lying position, with your back straight and your shoulders relaxed. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower abdomen, just above the navel. As you inhale, focus on expanding your lower abdomen, feeling your hand rise, while keeping your chest relatively still. As you exhale, focus on gently contracting your lower abdomen, feeling your hand lower.
You can practice this technique for a few minutes at a time, several times a day, or as needed when you're feeling stressed or anxious. With regular practice, diaphragm breathing can become a habit, allowing you to access its calming effects more easily when you need it most.
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