Breathing affects your physical, emotional, and mental health!

The average adult takes 12-20 breaths per minutes and hardly ever thinks about.  When you’re excited or anxious, the rate increases.  When you are relaxed or sleeping, the rate decreases.  It’s an automatic and simple process, but the value of it is often ignored.  Since breathing is automatic, we forget how much we can improve our daily lives by focusing on it, even for just a few minutes throughout the day.

Breathing is controlled by the brainstem, the most basic part of your brain that controls automatic body functions.  While we don’t have control over whether breathing occurs, we can control the impact that breathing has on our body.  That impact affects our physical, mental, and emotional well-being.  It can change our mood, calm our nervous system, and even help us make more clear and rational decisions.

From a purely physical perspective, deep breathing increases the oxygenation of our bloodstream, providing more energy to every cell in our body.  Deep breathing has been scientifically proven to increase immunity, improve the function of our heart and lungs, and aid in the digestion and absorption of nutrients.  Evidently, our body recognizes the importance of oxygen!

From an emotional and mental perspective, deep breathing calms an overstimulated nervous system.  It reminds our body to shift out of “fight or flight” mode which affects the release of chemicals and allows our mind and body to return to a state of balance.  Increasing our oxygen intake when over-stimulated allows us to return more quickly to rational thought.

Need more proof?  Try this activity and see what you notice….

Sit upright with your shoulders slumped forward and your head down.  Breathe at a regular rate and after two minutes, notice how your body feels.  Pay attention to your pulse and blood pressure.

Next, sit in a reclined position with your hands crossed behind your head (like Grandpa in the recliner).  Inhale slowly to the count of four, hold the breath for four counts, then exhale to the count of four.  Do this for two minutes and observe your emotional and physical response.  Are you calmer?  More relaxed? Feel more focused? It’s amazing what those oxygen molecules can do for us when we take a moment to focus on our breathing!


Wanda Jeffcoat, MS

Pre-Licensed Counselor, NCC, CCTP

Posted in Mental Health and tagged , , .