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Time to Breathe for Mental Well-being

As a mother, and I am sure most people would agree, you will always put your children’s needs first. Being able to see your children’s smiles, healthy and well, means the world to us. While motherhood is considered a remarkable gift, it also comes with certain challenges. As a parent, we are constantly under a lot of pressure nowadays. Every day we have to juggle so many work and family responsibilities, which may cause burnout if we don’t watch out. So relaxation is key to keeping yourself productive. Unfortunately, not everyone is able to relax when they want or knows how to relax. For those who are struggling with relaxation, practicing breathing exercises can be an easy and effective way to help you truly unwind.

Breathing is essential to our survival; we all know this to be true, but have you ever thought about just how important the act of breathing is in our lives? Our entry into the world as newborn babies takes place at the moment of our first breath. When we are worried about someone who is unconscious, the first thing we check is whether or not they are breathing. If someone is in distress, the first thing they are told to do is to take some deep breaths to try to bring their breathing under control.

All through our lives, our breath is with us, most of the time just ticking away in the background, in and out, in and out, while we focus on something more important. But there is hardly anything more important than breathing, and scientific research continues to back up what yoga practitioners and meditation experts have known for centuries: controlled breathing is the way to better health and mental wellbeing.

Learning breath control techniques can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, or PNS, which controls certain unconscious processes in our bodies such as digestion, and is associated with “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” states.

Activating the PNS through the breath is easier than you might think, and one way to do it is with diaphragmatic breathing, also known as abdominal breathing. Simply put, this means using the muscles of the abdomen to assist with breathing.

Unless we are actively exercising, most of us take short, shallow breaths throughout the day, with our chest moving up and down very slightly. One way to learn diaphragmatic breathing is to place one hand flat against the chest, with the other hand flat against the stomach. Breathing in slowly, the idea is that the stomach should move out against your hand, with the one on your chest remaining as still as possible. When you exhale, the stomach muscles should be tightened and the hand on them should move inwards, again with the chest remaining stationary.

If you have never tried this before, it may not be easy to get into the rhythm of this way of breathing at first, but frequent practice while sitting or lying down can help. It is also a good idea to exhale through pursed lips, as this has been shown to keep the airways open longer and decrease the work of breathing.

One way to keep on track is to listen to music while practicing. This can induce very relaxing meditative states, especially if you use certain sounds within the music to redirect your attention to your breath every time your mind wanders, which is a type of mindfulness meditation.

Harmonic Breathing is a nonprofit project which creates music for this specific purpose. Based on findings from scientific research, their songs are designed to be used with meditation and breathing exercises and incorporate binaural beats and infrasonic bass, which have been shown to induce deeper meditation and reduce stress and anxiety significantly.

Harmonic Breathing has recently released its latest meditation song, “Sandwood Bay”, referencing one of the most amazing beaches in Scotland. The song uses recorded 3D binaural sounds of crashing surf to create a calming effect and to help you stay in a prolonged state of relaxation. Only 15 minutes of exercise a day can significantly improve your well-being.

Diaphragmatic breathing is the foundation of many meditative practices and has been proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure even after a single session. There are countless studies showing that regular practice can not only relieve stress and improve general relaxation but can also lead to real pain relief for people with chronic conditions, as well as better sleep, higher levels of concentration, and more balanced moods.

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