Breathing: You’re Doing it Wrong!

Are you making a common mistake with your breathing? Most likely you are, and I’ll demonstrate what you can do about it in this video:

  • How most people are breathing wrong, and why?
  • Experience the massive health benefits of getting more oxygen into your body.
  • How to get natural anxiety relief with a simple breathing technique!

Do You Make This Breathing Mistake?

Get ready to take in a really deep breath and hold it. Are you ready…set…GO!
Hold that breath in for a moment and notice something. Did your shoulders go up and your chest expand, like mine did?

For the majority of us, when we’re told to take a deep breath, we expand our chest and draw the air into the upper part of our lungs. Unfortunately, what this shows is that you’ve unconsciously become a “chest breather.”

This means you’re doing most of your breathing efforts with your chest and even your neck muscles. It’s not the most efficient way to get oxygen into your body, because it only partially expands the lungs.

Over time, chest breathing can also contribute to neck and shoulder pain. I know that from experience because I used to have chronic shoulder pain for years!

You weren’t born as a chest breather. However, for most people it has become an unconscious pattern to breathe using short, shallow breaths that only go into the upper portion of the lungs.

What Causes Poor Breathing Patterns?

Years of poor posture, bad habits, and stressful thinking eventually lead to less than desirable breathing patterns.

The chest breathing pattern of taking in short sips of air into the upper lungs is adequate for living, but inefficient for THRIVING.

  • Stress is a big contributor: Shallow breathing is a physiological response to stressful thinking.
  • Bad posture plays a part. Do you sit for long hours in front of a computer? I know I do sometimes!
  • Lack of exercise: As you probably know, rigorous exercise naturally facilitates deep breathing and stress relief. If you’re not getting enough exercise, eventually you pay the price with poor breathing habits.
  • Pollution: If you live in a smoggy city or work in an industrial area, taking a deep breathe is sometimes a scary proposition!
  • Smoking: Smokers reach for a cigarette when they’re stressed and condition themselves to inhale with short puffs. It’s the OPPOSITE of a deep relaxing breath!
  • For looks! We’re culturally programmed to expand our chest and suck in the gut because it makes you look “SEXY.” That might look good in the mirror, but chest breathing only partially engages the lungs. It’s not very efficient at all.

We take about 20,000 breaths every day. Most likely, you’ve been chest breathing all day, every day for a very long time. You’ve only been getting a portion of the oxygen that you could be using to energize your body and lower your stress.

Oxygen is the most important source of life you have. You could actually survive without food for several weeks. You could go without water for several days, but if you cut off your oxygen, you’d be dead within minutes.

Imagine the change in your health and vitality if you could automatically take in MORE oxygen on an ongoing basis just breathing more efficiently?

I’ll tell you this. There is a direct correlation between a person’s health and the oxygen levels in their body. Cells that get insufficient oxygen become weak, or even die. There’s also a theory that low oxygen levels may even contribute to cancer-causing cell mutations!

Diaphragmatic Breathing

So what’s the answer? It’s the type of breathing that every mammal in nature uses when they are in a state of relaxation. It’s called diaphragmatic breathing. It’s also known as abdominal breathing, or belly breathing.

What most people don’t know, is that the primary muscle for breathing respiration is actually located UNDER your lungs and ABOVE your stomach. It’s called the diaphragm. It’s a large dome shaped muscle located horizontally between the chest cavity and the stomach.

Diaphragmatic breathing anxiety relief
Diaphragmatic Breathing (Wikipedia)

Contracting the diaphragm causes it to flatten out. This creates a vacuum that pulls air down into the lungs and pushes the belly out. When you breathe with the diaphragm, your belly expands instead of your chest.

Take a Diaphragmatic Breath

Try this out now: Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Now, inflate your stomach as you breathe in while keeping your chest and shoulders relaxed. Imagine expanding your stomach like a beach ball. That will push out the hand that’s over your belly. Avoid expanding your chest outward or your shoulders upward.

You want the hand over your chest to remain still, and the hand over your stomach to expand outward. Inhale deeply by pushing your stomach out. Inhale slowly and feel your stomach pulling in. Your shoulders and your chest should stay relaxed.

You might notice it takes some effort to do belly breathing the first time you try this because it’s much different than what you’ve been doing unconsciously. Your neck and chest muscles have been doing most of the work, leaving your diaphragm weak and inefficient. The first time you try this, you might even get a little light headed.

Diaphragmatic Breathing is Natural

Diaphragmatic “belly breathing” is the healthiest and most natural way to breathe. This is how you were born breathing. If you watch a sleeping baby, you’ll see that’s how they breathe. The belly expands, but not the chest.

The act of pushing your belly forward as you breathe requires you to engage the diaphragm. This allows you to take deeper breaths that engage far more of your lungs capacity. That means more oxygen gets into the lungs and into your bloodstream.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Triggers Relaxation

DEEP and SLOW belly breathing triggers the body’s natural relaxation response. It interrupts the “fight or flight” response associated with stress, anxiety, and even panic attacks. Knowing how to breathe this way is an absolute MUST to massively reduce your day to day stress levels.

Deep belly breathing, done correctly, is the master key to profound relaxation. It’s not just a coincidence that every traditional relaxation practice places a high priority on deep breathing exercises whether it’s meditation, yoga, or even hypnosis.

How to Make Belly Breathing Natural Again

While you may have the unconscious pattern of being a chest breather now, you can consciously choose to take control of your breathing pattern at any time. Through practice and conscious conditioning, you can train your nervous system with belly breathing until it becomes natural for you once again.

Taking in some structured deep belly breaths several times throughout the day will re-engage your diaphragm muscle while conditioning your subconscious mind to return to this natural way of breathing.

Deep Belly Breathing Exercise

Here’s a structured deep breathing exercise that will increase your energy, lower your stress, and provide relief from anxiety. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Inhale through your nose slowly for a count of FOUR,
  2. Hold that breath for a count of FOUR, and
  3. Finally exhale through your mouth for a count of EIGHT.

For this deep breathing practice exercise, we’re intentionally going to take twice as long to exhale as inhale. This helps to stimulate parts of your nervous system that produce the relaxation response.

This breathing exercise will teach you to:

  • Breathe slower than what you’re used to.
  • Breathe deeper than you’re used to.
  • And use your diaphragm by belly breathing to regulate the inhales and the exhales.

So, let’s do it now with the 4-4-8 count. Ready?!

  1. Breathe in! A four count inhale.
  2. Hold it! A four count hold.
  3. Breathe out! An eight count exhale

That’s it! Doing that simple deep breathing exercise several times a day will have amazing benefits for you.

Benefits of Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing

Deep belly breathing causes profound physiological changes. It very quickly decreases your heart rate and your blood pressure. Because it also engages the lower portion of your lungs, more oxygen is getting into your bloodstream, releasing natural endorphins and serotonin.

Taking in these deep belly breaths creates a relaxation response that interrupts the “fight or flight” response of high anxiety. You will most definitely notice a beneficial change in your stress levels simply by doing this deep breathing exercise.

As of right now, belly breathing is probably NOT your unconscious style of breathing. Simply continuing to practice belly breathing will eventually lead to it becoming an unconscious habit. That’s the goal!

Meanwhile, the practice of DEEP belly breathing will have IMMEDIATE benefits for your health because your oxygen intake will go up. Your concentration and focus will improve, and your stress levels will go way down. That’s a fact!

Belly Breathing – Take Action Now!

Every waking hour of the day, simply practice three, deep belly breaths using the 4-4-8 count. Breathe in through your nose for a count of four, hold it for a count of four, and then breath out through your mouth for a count of eight.

Do this three times in a row each time. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Just a few moments to center yourself, and take three, deep, belly breaths.

Smartphone Reminder System

Now, if you have a smartphone, there are apps available that can cause your phone to chirp a short reminder alarm every hour, like the hourly beep from a digital watch. I use an iPhone, and I’ve been using an app called Chime. I do believe this particular app is available for other smartphones as well.

I’ve got the app set to beep once every hour between the hours of 9am and 10pm. That’s my reminder throughout the day, at the top of every hour, to practice three, deep belly breaths using the 4-4-8 count.

Rookie Mistake: No Reminder System!

You NEED to set up a reminder system to practice this every hour. Before you forget, stop right now and get an app for your smartphone! Or set a digital watch that you actually wear to beep every hour in order to remind you to take those three, deep belly breaths every hour of the day. It’s simple, it’s fast, and it’s very empowering.

Physiology of a Panic Attack

Here’s the physiology of what occurs when a person experiences strong anxiety, or even worse, a panic attack. Very often there’s difficulty breathing, or a feeling like you can’t “catch your breath.” That’s a common symptom for a panic attack.

This happens not only because you’re breathing in short, shallow breaths into your chest, but you’re also going too fast. You’re trying to take in new air before you’ve let the old air out.

Anxiety Attack. Panic Attack Breathing
Panic Breathing = Fast, shallow breaths into upper chest!

This leads to the feeling that you are not getting enough air, which leads to even more panic! You might even be hyperventilating– literally “over breathing” with shallow breaths that leave you feeling like you’re not getting enough air.

Here’s the thing, the physiology of anxiety, the physiology of a panic attack requires shallow panic breathing.

You can actually break this pattern of panic breathing with SLOW, DEEP breaths into your belly. Deep diaphragmatic belly breathing creates a pattern interruption for feelings of anxiety. It’s not congruent!

An anxiety attack cannot physiologically continue if you consciously take control of your breathing.

Stop Anxiety Attacks With a Breathing Trick

The first trick is to EXHALE FIRST before you try to catch your breath. You’ve got to stop the pattern of hyperventilating or trying to pull in new air before you’ve exhaled the old air.

First thing you need to do is stop everything, and exhale with a sharp burst of air, almost as if you were blowing out a candle. Try this right now. This activates the diaphragm, you can literally feel it engage as your abs tighten up when you exhale. This creates a temporary but intentional pattern interruption to the shallow panic breathing.

  • So, exhale FIRST to clear your lungs, and pause for a moment.
  • Then, start doing the deep belly breathing exercise with a 4-4-8 count.
  • Breathe in through the nose for a count of four.
  • Hold it for a count of four.
  • Breathe out slowly through your mouth for a count of eight.

The Posture of Confidence

Also, check your posture. GOOD posture is the posture of confidence and being in control. So, sit up straight, or stand up straight as you take slow, deep breaths that fill up your belly, NOT your chest!

  • Breathe more deeply than you are used to.
  • Breathe slower than you are used to.
  • Use your belly breathing to regulate the inhales and the exhales.

And continue to focus on your breathing for as long as it takes for the panic attack to stop. This may take a few minutes, but the body will respond REGARDLESS of what’s going on in your mind.

Practice Deep Belly Breathing in Advance!

Here’s another very important consideration. If you ever do have panic or anxiety attacks, you MUST practice deep, confident, belly breathing IN ADVANCE of your next panic attack, so you’ll know exactly what to do to break the pattern when the time comes.

If you wait until you are in a state of anxiety to apply what you’ve learned, that’s too late because you’ll be overwhelmed and won’t remember what you’re supposed to do. You NEED to practice this in advance while you have your wits about you and there’s a feeling of being in control.

To recap: There’s two potential rookie mistakes that could occur here for people that suffer from anxiety or panic attacks:

Rookie Mistake #1: Not practicing IN ADVANCE

Practice this often so that you’ll know exactly what to do BEFORE the next anxiety attack happens.

Rookie Mistake #2: Not Exhaling First!

If you’re having a panic attack and feel like you’re trying to catch your breath, remember to stop everything and exhale first to empty out your lungs and pause for a moment. Break the panic breathing pattern of trying to bring in new air before the old air has been released.

Here’s one final point about using this strategy. Deep belly breathing is very effective. It will provide anxiety relief, and it will stop the physiological symptoms of a panic attack.

However, it DOESN’T resolve the the underlying thought process going in your subconscious mind that created that surge of anxiety in the first place. There’s likely some sort of subconscious stimulus-response pattern that triggered the anxiety.

The good news, is that there are most certainly some very effective techniques for breaking up those triggers and creating permanent changes that resolve those types of problems. We’re going to learn and apply those cutting edge techniques in the Fear Cure Course (BE SURE TO SIGN UP!!).

Practice Your Breathing and Get the Benefits!

Even if you don’t suffer from anxiety, EVERYONE can benefit from the practice of diaphragmatic breathing. Practicing those deep belly breaths throughout the day will train your nervous system to make belly breathing natural for you. Conscious practice eventually leads to subconscious adaptation.

The main point here is to develop the continuous habit of using your diaphragm for breathing respiration. Whatever rhythm is NATURAL.

The 4-4-8 is a deep breathing EXERCISE. Use it to calm down and get centered. As a practice, I recommend a few of these each hour to to consciously engage your diaphragm and trigger the body’s natural relaxation response.

5 Ways to Conquer Fears, Anxiety, and Negative Emotions!

Thank you so much for reading and watching the video! PLEASE SHARE THIS POST if you found it helpful. POST COMMENTS and questions. Practice your belly breathing, and let me know how well this is working for you!

20 comments on “Stress & Anxiety Relief with Diaphragmatic Breathing Video

  1. Same stuff… shortness, kinda cannot get deep breath, feels blocked….. did this exercise, and some more on the same page (belly breathing and went back to bed… in no time I was asleep and woke up all fresh… Now I practice deep breathing though with breath holds, regularly… it opens, unlocks my lungs and I can take it in till the end!!! funny…. Also when I feel blood pressure up… say 190/90… I do these deep breathing exercises and after 10 -15 min of exercise I get BP down to 150 70+

  2. Hi Erick,
    Great article! Thanks kindly for sharing. What is the significance of holding the breath in before exhaling? Does holding it longer make any type of difference?

    • First, to clarify: You DON’T hold your breath when breathing naturally.

      When practicing the 4-4-8 deep breathing exercise, you do hold your breath for a count of 4. This is simply a training tool for diaphragmatic breathing “newbies” to help them:
      1) Slow down, and
      2) Be mindful about their breathing.
      Some people new to diaphragmatic breathing MAY feel lightheaded when they first do the exercise. In that case, holding the breath for a second or two seems to alleviate the problem.

      Once you are comfortable practicing the 4-4-8 exercise, you can choose to remove the breath hold entirely. Just breath in for a count of 4, and breathe out for a count of 8.

      There’s no benefit to holding your breath for extended periods of time. It encourages a bad habit. People tend to HOLD their breath when they’re concentrating or stressed out. We want to BREAK that pattern!

  3. I suffer from anxiety an panic attacks myself! I will definitely try this next time I have an attack!! Thanks for the info!! ?

  4. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks daily…I will every hour do this breathing technique to help me. Thank you so very much..this has helped tremendously.

  5. Thanks for the helpful information! The article is very informative and well-written, and the video is easy to follow and well done as well. I bet the upcoming FearCureCourse will be awesome also. Keep up the great work!

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