Mindfulness and Breathing Techniques for Mental Health and Relaxation
By: Dr. Elaine Hickman
Two of the most common non-pharmacologic management of stress and anxiety are mindfulness and deep breathing exercises. Not only are these two techniques beneficial in helping you relax; they can also contribute to the improvement of one’s mental health. They are very easy to perform and will never require any fancy tool or equipment to get it done.
Deep Breathing for Relaxation
Hospitalised patients are always advised to perform deep breathing exercises whenever they feel pain. It is a lot similar to having acupuncture as an alternative management protocol for pain. You can click here for more information about how acupuncture can help in the management of different issues, including pain and fertility.
Deep breathing exercises increase lung capacity, allowing it to draw in more oxygen from the outside air. This oxygen diffuses into the blood and goes to the different cells of the body. This is the popular notion about deep breathing.
However, there is another mechanism by which this popular exercise can help induce relaxation. When you perform deep breathing exercises, your inhalation efforts should come from the belly. You should feel the diaphragm contracting downwards and outwards in an effort to increase the volume of the lungs above it. This compresses the vagus nerve underneath the diaphragm. The vagus nerve slows down the heart rate and lowers blood pressure. At the same time, it also lowers stress levels.
Overall, it is the combined vagal stimulation and improved oxygenation that can bring about relaxation using deep breathing exercises.
Mindfulness for Overall Mental Health
When people think about mindfulness, they always think about meditation and yoga. Mindfulness is a type of meditation technique that allows you to focus more on the “now” than on anything else. The reason why they call it mindfulness meditation is that you are training the mind to think about nothing else but what is occurring in the present. This allows both the mind and the body to engage in the moment.
Mindfulness meditation allows individuals to reduce their anxiety levels, manage stress, and improve the symptoms of depression. Beginners can focus on their breathing, which makes mindfulness a great complement to deep breathing exercises. The mind focuses more on the rise and fall of the chest through the contraction of the muscles in the belly.
Other mindfulness meditation techniques require you to focus on a mantra or a single word. It encourages you to follow sensations or internal thoughts without thinking about them. The mind is an observer, watching these thoughts fly by. As they pass, the mind “releases” these sensations or thoughts.
Over time, mindfulness meditation can help you find peace in everything you do. It works well with physical exercises to help one focus. Meditation can also help when walking, allowing the individual to focus on the strides. Mindfulness can also enhance the appreciation of the food you are eating. It allows you to focus on the sensations that a delicious food brings.
Mindfulness and deep breathing exercises almost always go hand-in-hand. They can promote optimum relaxation while improving one’s mental health.
About Dr. Elaine Hickman
Dr. Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China. She has over 20 years of experience in treating many health problems. Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable. Her acupuncture treatments are gentle, powerful, amazingly relaxing and incorporate Japanese & Chinese techniques, as well as Medical Qi Gong if appropriate. Elaine has a particular interest in Gynaecology, Fertility, Obstetrics, Family Medicine, Wellness promotion and Mental Health.