Life begins with a breath and ends with a breath. In between, lies your journey of countless breaths and innumerable moments, where each moment dictates the way you breathe. A fit of anger, for instance, makes the breathing heavy, audible, and deep. It is calmer and relaxed in happier times. Fear, on the other hand, turns breathing into a shallow rhythm. These are the emotions when you largely notice the ebb and flow of the air, channelling through your body—unless you have a respiratory condition or you have just finished a 100 metre lap.
For the most part, however, you seldom notice your breathing cycle. No one does for that matter, because no one can. We breathe around 17,000 times a day. No way, anyone can count every breath while running errands, doing laundry, cooking dinner, driving to work, and countless other daily chores. But just because you can’t count your breath, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay attention to it. Breathing is not just a mechanism, with the sole purpose to run on autopilot so that you can continue your journey. It also has a gift of healing, something many of us are unaware of.
Breathing is more like a highway that connects mind and body, but it is not a one-way street at all. Your emotions affect the pattern of your breathing, but your breathing can regulate your emotions as well, as suggested by the study, The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults. It is all about awareness and control. “Pay attention to your breathing” is a phrase you might have heard many times, from your gym trainer or yoga instructor. That’s because they know the importance of breathing when you exercise. But the power of conscious breathing is not just limited to physical wellness. In a moment of distress, controlled breathing can help you stay calm, restore the balance in your mind, and make better decisions.
Once you realise that breathing is not just a reflection of your unwanted emotions or stress but also a force to defeat them, half the battle is already won. For the rest, you need to take a deep breath. Yes, that’s it. A deep breath is all that it takes to stop anxiety, stress, or any other rogue thoughts from burdening your mind. It could be a meeting with your boss or an argument with your spouse, every time, stress tries to get the better of you, a few deep breaths can help you regain control over your mind.