Breathwork: How It Can Boost Your Mental Health

Breathing is as simple as taking in oxygen and removing carbon dioxide; however, there are different types of breathing – eupnea, hyperpnea, diaphragmatic, and costal breathing. follow on for Breathwork: How It Can Boost Your Mental Health.

Eupnea Breathing

This the normal process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. This type of breathing requires no stress or mindfulness. It is the breathing taking place as we are reading this right now. Eupnea breathing is also called silent breathing.

Hyperpnea Breathing

Involves taking in more oxygen into the lungs than usual. This type of breathwork is deeper than eupnea breathing and occurs when the body needs more oxygen. For instance, the body consumes more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide during exercise.

This extra demand causes breathing to increase, and more air is taken in for proper muscle function during exercise. Certain medical conditions can also cause or force an increase in respiration.

Diaphragmatic Breathing and Breathwork

This is conscious and deliberate deep breathing that helps the body and mind to relax. It fully uses the diaphragm, a muscle that sits under the lungs, to take deep breaths. Diaphragmatic breathwork is also known as abdominal breathing or belly breathing. This type of breathing allows the lungs to use their full capacity and reduces breathing rate.

Costal Breathing

Ths also known as shallow breathing or chest breathing. It uses the intercostal muscle between the rib cage to draw air into the chest area. Breathing is a natural, unconscious process that occurs 12 to 18 times per minute in an adult at rest. However, this normal breath does not engage the diaphragm to its maximum capacity, differentiating it from deep breathing.

Deep or diaphragmatic breathing positively affects our physical and mental health. A study was carried out to investigate the effects of deep breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults.

Forty participants were randomly assigned to a breathing intervention group (BIG) or a control group (CG). The BIG received intensive training for 20 sessions, stretched over eight weeks. The study used a real-time feedback device and an average respiratory rate of 4 breaths/min.

The CG did not receive this treatment. All participants were asked to complete pre-and post-tests of sustained attention and affect. Pre-test and post-test salivary cortisol concentrations were determined in both groups.

The result of the study showed a significant decrease in negative affect after intervention from the BIG compared to the control group. In the diaphragmatic breathing condition, the BIG showed significantly increased sustained attention after training compared to the control group.

Lastly, the BIG had a substantially lower cortisol level after training, while the control group showed no significant change in cortisol levels. The study concluded that diaphragmatic breathing could improve sustained attention, negative affect, and cortisol levels.

Benefits of Deep Breathing and Breathwork on Mental Health

It is normal to feel down on some days or feel stressed about certain situations. When stressed, our heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate increase. In this situation, deep breathing signals our brain to calm and relax our body, reducing the stress and anxiety that have accumulated.

Research has also shown that the brain interprets different emotions to different breathing patterns. When we are anxious, fearful or stressed, our breathing becomes faster and irregular, but when we are happy, our breathing is normal.

Deep breathing basically tells the brain that our emotional status is better than it actually is, which then relaxes our body and mind. Increased attention and decreased negative thoughts are also associated with deep breathing.

This is because when we engage in breathing exercises, our body and mind are detached from our surroundings, negative emotions and stressors. This allows a now clear mind to focus on positive thoughts and other things; it puts our body and mind in a state of complete rest and zero influence from the outside world.

There are many different breathing techniques. Find the method that suits you and practice regular breathwork to derive maximum benefit from your mental and physical health!

Roheemah Adebayo

Roheemah Adebayo, is from Nigeria, but currently lives in the UK. She studied Public Health as a first degree in Abu Dhabi, and did her Master’s degree also in Public Health in the UK. She is passionately interested in health promotion and well-being. She loves to encourage positive attitudes and behaviour which she believes are essential for a successful future.

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