Zhuangzi, the ancient Chinese philosopher, once said: “Breathing control gives man strength, vitality, inspiration, and magic powers.”
Yet breathing is something we do so unconsciously, unless we take a moment to bring it into our awareness, we usually have no idea at what rate and how deeply we breathe.
When we are nervous, a change in breathing is almost inevitable. We typically breathe faster and not as deeply as when we are relaxed. We might even forget to breathe altogether for a brief moment.
Not getting enough air increases anxiety even more — a vicious cycle that greatly impacts our voice. It becomes monotone and dull. Taking deep breaths, on the other hand, allows us to stretch out words, emphasize syllables, and play with the sounds we produce.
So how can you habitually take deeper and slower breaths?
Take just a few minutes each day to exercise your breathing. You don’t have to learn yoga or meditation if that’s not your thing. Performing a simple breathing exercise that takes just a few moments each day will already help.
This exercise is called box breathing:
- Sit or stand with your spine straight.
- Close your mouth and exhale all the air.
- Inhale slowly through your nose while counting from 1 to 4 – fill your lungs completely from top to bottom.
- Hold your breath while slowly counting from 1 to 4.
- Exhale completely through your nose while slowly counting from 1 to 4.
- Hold your breath while counting from 1 to 4.
Repeat #3 to #6 a few times and notice how you are becoming more relaxed with each breath.
In addition to rewiring your breathing permanently, this exercise also has tactical application. That’s why first responders learn box breathing not only to improve unconscious breathing patterns but also to deal with increased anxiety in any fight-or-flight situation.
The next time you feel a bit anxious do a few rounds of box breathing to relax and become more grounded. It only takes a few moments, and the impact on your emotional state will be noticeable.