Breathing Exercises to Boost Mood and Productivity
This might sound obvious but breathing can have a significant impact on how we feel. Often if we’re feeling tense or stressed, our breathing pattern may change. We might feel anxious or overwhelmed and start to breathe shallow and rapid breaths from our upper chest. We can get caught up in this state and forget that slow, belly breathing can take our body and mind back into a calmer state.
When we’re feeling tense or stressed and breathe from our chest in this way, it is also known as thoracic breathing, and it can cause an imbalance in your body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. As a result, you might experience a rapid heart rate, dizziness, muscle tension and other uncomfortable sensations in the body. Because blood isn’t getting the right oxygen levels, it sends a stress response signal that may lead to a panic or anxiety attack.
Luckily, there are different kinds of breathing that serve us in each ways. Knowing a few different breathing techniques can be useful to have up your sleeve because you are less likely to remain productive or even work at all if you stay in a state of unease. The good thing about these exercises is they take just a few minutes to do. So we suggest trying them all to find the best one for you.
1) Tune into Your Breathing
You may feel as though you are breathing correctly but to be sure, try this basic breathing exercise to understand what good breathing should feel like.
Lie down somewhere comfortable, flat on your back with your legs straight or bent with a cushion under your knees if you have lower back issues.
- Place one hand below your ribcage and the other hand on your chest.
- Inhale slowly and watch your chest rise,
- Then, exhale while tightening your core, imagine that you are releasing all the carbon dioxide from your body.
This exercise may require quite a bit of energy at first and could even feel tiring but the more you practice, the better you’ll become at breathing correctly.
2) 4-7-8 Breathing
Or you might like to try something that will get you into a relaxed state quite quickly. This is a great technique to help you relax, and it is also a super helpful one to try before bed if you’re having trouble sleeping. In fact, the 4-7-8 breathing technique has become very popular in recent years. Dr. Andrew Weil developed this simple yet powerful breathing method that encourages calmness and relaxation. It’s also known as “relaxing breath,” and simply involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds, and exhaling for 8 seconds. This kind of breathing pattern reduces anxiety or helps you sleep. Some people claim that the method helps people get to sleep in 1 minute.
3) Coherent Breathing
Creators of Breath, Body, Mind Dr Pat Gerbarg and Dr Richard Brown are advocates of coherent breathing. Your breath can control emotions and so the more gently you can do coherent breathing, the better the effect. The great thing about coherent breathing is that it enables you to be both calm and alert at the same time (it’s the sweet spot) and the effect can last for hours after you do it.
It’s a bit like the yogic ‘ocean breath’, and effectively you need to inhale gently through the nose while keeping your mouth closed. Then inhale for 6 seconds but don’t fill your lungs completely. Exhale gently for 6 seconds. The idea is to do 5 rounds of this per minute.
It is suggested that you try 20 mins of coherent breathing a day, 3-4 times a week, to see the best results. Here’s a link to the 5 breaths per minute track that will help you regulate your breathing to a recorded pattern: https://naturalsinger.com/5-breaths (free download or donation).
4) Boosting Productivity (1-Minute Exercise)
Boosting oxygen can lead to productivity, and this breathing technique will help you do just that because breath and productivity go hand in hand. The wrong sort of breathing not only reduces your productivity levels but it can lead to an increase in your heart rate. Yoga has become a common form of stress management and exercise for overworked executives, and you can practice yogic breathing exercises without going to a yoga class. Professional yoga therapist Felice Rhiannon uses this one-minute breath practice whenever she’s feeling frazzled or restless. It is a grounding activity based on a slow inhalation and an incremental increase in the length of exhalations:
Inhale to the count of two
- Exhale to the count of two
- Inhale to the count of two
- Exhale to the count of three
- Inhale to the count of two
- Exhale to the count of four
- Inhale to the count of two
- Exhale to the count of five
Repeat several times, then return to your normal breathing. Your improved breathing will help regulate the oxygen flow in your blood, making you more alert. With a better focus, you can stay on task and make fewer mistakes, saving you time in the long run.
5) Prolonged Exhaling
Sometimes, just taking a deep breath might not cut it. To calm down and boost your attention span, you might need to try prolonged exhaling – an exercise for improving productivity. Deep breaths are usually connected to your sympathetic nervous system, which influences the flight-or-fight response. Meanwhile, exhaling is connected to the parasympathetic nervous system, which affects your body’s ability to calm down. To alleviate feelings of stress or anxiety, follow the steps below:
Before taking a deep, big breath, thoroughly exhale first.
- Ensure you push all the air out of your lungs. Then naturally inhale as much air as you can.
- Breathe in for four seconds. Then exhale for six.
Perform these steps for three to five minutes. Ensure you’re comfortably seated or lying down.