December 9, 2015

Let It Go: Beat Holiday Stress with Simple Breathing Techniques

Live Healthy

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, when family members and friends gather together to give thanks, exchange gifts and reminisce of memories past. 

However, the holidays also are stressful, and suddenly, all those tidings of good cheer have taken an ugly turn. 

Now, instead of season’s greetings, you’re wishing everyone bah humbug! 

But a positive attitude isn’t just good for your emotional state. Letting go of grudges also has surprising physical health benefits. 

Chronic anger is linked to decreased lung function, heart disease, stroke and other ailments. 

Forgiveness, on the other hand, will reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and help you to breathe more easily. These benefits tend to increase as you get older. 

While avoiding stress completely isn’t realistic, there are effective ways to manage anxiety and anger levels. 

Try yoga, meditation or deep breathing. 

Research shows that practices centered on rhythmic, deep breathing directly affect the health of both mind and body

One study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science found that people who performed deep-breathing techniques had lower stress levels and improved their immune systems functioning. 

Slowing down the cadence of your breathing also has been shown to turn off the body’s “fight or flight” response and turn on the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing the body time to rest, regenerate and heal. 

That’s because taking deeper breaths allows more oxygen to pass through your body, which improves your energy and allows you to think clearer. 

More oxygen in your brain also helps with the release of the happy hormone serotonin, while oxygenated blood increases the production of red blood cells, which help your heart, lungs, digestive system and just about everything else in your body work more efficiently. 

The next time you feel yourself tensing up, follow this easy technique, appropriately called the “Relaxing Breath” (or the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise): 

  • Find a quiet place where you can sit comfortably, with your back straight.
  • Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, in the area just behind your upper front teeth. Keep it there through the entire exercise.
  • Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  • Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  • Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  • This is one breath. Repeat the cycle – inhale for four, hold for seven, exhale for eight – three more times, for a total of four breaths.