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A Billion Breaths-Make Them Count

A person who exercises regularly and lives to be 80 will take a billion breaths in her lifetime.

Stop for a moment; sit down; place your palms on your thighs; take a deep breath in through your nose; hold it; ponder a billion breaths; now exhale slowly through your mouth.


How did that feel? Good, right?  Repeat 10 times and feel the tension oozing out of your pores.


Breathing is automatic – we’re generally unaware of the roughly 24,000 life-sustaining breaths we take per day. Anxiety disrupts this state, causing breathing to become shallow and breaths more rapid. Breathing with intention, deeper and slower, is one way to quickly reduce anxiety.


There are two basic breathing patterns. Chest breathing is the most common and the typical pattern when breaths become fast and shallow due to anxiety. While chest breathing, one takes in less oxygen causing breath rate to increase. In the extreme, shallow chest breathing can cause dizziness and increased stress.


Abdominal breathing, the second basic breathing pattern, is when one takes deeper, more even breaths, increasing oxygen levels in the bloodstream, and helping with feelings of calmness and relaxation.  Endurance athletes train to abdominal breathe while performing.


When feeling anxious, try intentional breathing.  Sit in a relaxed position and take deep, even breaths through your nose, hold for three seconds, and exhale slowly through your mouth.  Watch for your abdomen to rise slowly while inhaling. Focus on pushing out all of the breath while exhaling. Repeat this at least ten times and focus on relaxing your shoulders as you breathe. You should notice an immediate difference in the anxiety and a sense of clarity about your next steps.


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