When inhaling, completely fill your lungs, hold for a second, and then exhale slowly. Try doing this right now for a whole minute. This relaxed method of breathing expands the branches in your Airways called bronchioles, activating the PSNS that controls them, causing them and the rest of your body and mind to relax.
The Primitive Brain fight-or-flight response is meant to be triggered as needed, in those rare moments that we are actually in danger. Of all of the processes regulated by the autonomic nervous system only breathing can be controlled consciously. This is why the first step in reversing or escalating anger process is to learn to breathe again the way we were born to breathe.
As long as you are breathing deeply and from the diaphragm, you will find that you can access a feeling of calm and OK-ness even when you are confronted with a provocative situation. And you may also notice that if you allow your breath to become shallow by breathing only from your chest, anxiety creeps in, your muscles tighten, and your mind begins to race and spin. When this agitated breathing is prolonged, it creates an unsettled and defensive outlook on life. Once you know this from your own experience, you can make a different choice.
Close your eyes, put your right hand on your abdomen, right at the waistline, and put your left hand on the center of your chest. Without trying to change your breathing, notice how you are breathing. Which hand raises most as you inhale, the hand on your chest, or the hand on your belly? If your abdomen expands, then you are breathing from your diaphragm. If your belly doesn’t move, or moves less than your chest, then you are breathing from your chest. The trick to shifting from chest to abdominal breathing is to make one or two full exhalations that push out the air from the bottom of your lungs. This will create a vacuum that will pull in a deep diaphragmatic or abdominal breath the next time you breathe in. Focus on your breathing in this way for a few minutes.
Which hand raised most when first trying this breathing technique?
What happened when you made one or two full exhalation first?