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Beating winter blues with breathwork

Beating winter blues with breathwork

The weather is colder, the days are shorter, and cases of flu are spreading, making us more lethargic. When someone is suffering from an episode of the winter blues, it often feels like they’ll be stuck in this mental state forever. Combating winter blues, or seasonal depression can often be very difficult, but they can be managed with tools we have from within.

There are many interventions for winter blues. From phototherapy (light therapy that mimics sunlight), to talking therapy, to medication and lifestyle changes. However, one overlooked factor in combating winter blues, or any other mental health condition is your pattern of breath.

Normally, we fall into the trap of shallow breathing refers to a breathing pattern where a person takes quick, shallow breaths instead of deep, slow breaths.

Shallow breathing often involves using the chest and shoulders more than the diaphragm, which is the muscle at the base of the lungs. Shallow breathing is a common response to stress, anxiety, or other emotional states, but it can also occur due to certain habits or medical conditions. You can tell if you’re shallow breathing by how tense your shoulders are and how deep your breathing goes. It’s good practice to put your hands on your solar plexus (just above your belly button) to test how deep your breathing is.

Not only is shallow breathing a response to anxiety, it’s also a way to trigger your fight or flight response, which increases the amount of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. If unhealthy breathing can be a cause, then good breathing habits are a cure.

Before going on to breathing exercises, it’s important to understand some importants mechanics of the breath.

1. Breathing in through your nose is very important. Some say it’s best to breathe in and out through your nose, but breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth is also good. What’s important is making sure you don’t breathe in through your mouth because this causes low oxygen concentration in the blood, which is bad for your mind, body and spirit

2. To take energising breaths, your exhales need to be shorter and more explosive than your inhales

3. To take relaxing breaths, your exhales need to be longer than your inhales

4. Breathwork is amazing because it’s the bridge between your conscious and subconscious mind, so it will help you declutter your mind and feel your thoughts instead of sinking in rumination

There are many different types of breathing exercises, but here are some of the most common and most effective.

Box breathing:

Box breathing, also known as square breathing or four-square breathing, is a simple yet effective breathing exercise that can help promote relaxation, reduce stress, and enhance focus. It involves a structured pattern of inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the breath again, all for equal counts. The name "box breathing" comes from the idea that each phase of the breath is like one side of a square.

Here's a step-by-step guide to box breathing:

· Inhale (Count of 4):

Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, counting to four as you fill your lungs with air. Focus on breathing into your diaphragm rather than shallow chest breathing.

· Hold (Count of 4):

Hold your breath for a count of four after inhaling. Keep your lungs comfortably filled with air.

· Exhale (Count of 4):

Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth or nose, counting to four. Focus on releasing tension as you breathe out.

· Hold (Count of 4):

After exhaling, pause and hold your breath for another count of four before beginning the next inhale.

Alternate nostril breathing:

Alternate nostril breathing technique that involves consciously inhaling and exhaling through one nostril at a time. This practice is believed to help balance the two hemispheres of the brain, calm the nervous system, and promote overall well-being. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to practice alternate nostril breathing:

Completely exhale through both nostrils to start this exercise.

· Close Right Nostril (Inhale):

Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale slowly and deeply through your left nostril.

· Close Left Nostril (Exhale):

After inhaling, close your left nostril with your ring finger or pinky finger and exhale slowly and completely through your right nostril, then inhale completely through your right nostril.

· Close Right Nostril (Exhale):

After inhaling through your right nostril, close that same nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left nostril, then inhale through your left nostril.

· Repeat the Cycle:

Continue this pattern, alternating nostrils with each breath. Inhale through one nostril, exhale through the other and then swap nostrils after you’ve inhaled through the same nostril you’ve just exhaled from.

4-7-8 breathing

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as the Relaxing Breath, is a simple and effective breathing exercise designed to promote relaxation and alleviate stress. It was popularized by Dr. Andrew Weil, a

well-known integrative medicine physician. The technique involves a specific pattern of inhaling, holding the breath, and exhaling. Here's how to practice 4-7-8 breathing:

· Close Your Mouth:

Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.

· Hold Your Breath:

Hold your breath for a count of seven.

· Exhale Completely:

Exhale completely and audibly through your mouth to a count of eight. During the exhale, you can make a whooshing sound if it feels natural.

· Repeat the Cycle:

Inhale again through your nose, and then repeat the cycle by holding your breath and exhaling through your mouth.

Remember, breathwork is a tool, but once done properly, it’s a very powerful one.

Note: This is not medical advice and not made to replace or contradict the advice of a doctor or any other medical professional. Please speak to your doctor before embarking on lifestyle changes or taking advice.

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