You've probably already heard that breathing can help reduce anxiety. But you might be thinking, "I'm already breathing, so what am I supposed to do differently?"
And that's true–we're always breathing to stay alive. But when we're stressed, we're usually not focused on our breath. And the breathing we do can be more shallow. It can feel like it's all in our chest, or like we can't quite get a full breath in.
So, rather than just telling you to "breathe more", let's get more specific. Counting your breaths is a pretty simple breathing technique. You can do it anywhere, anytime.
Try breathing as you read this:
Inhale, and count to yourself, "1"
Exhale, and say to yourself, "2"
That's it. If it's feeling good, you can start over again at "1". Feel free to repeat numbers 1-10 until you feel a bit more relaxed and at ease.
How can counting your breaths help?
- Counting the breaths helps you really focus on each inhalation and exhalation. It encourages slightly longer, more full breaths.
- Setting aside time for both the inhalation and exhalation ensures that you do both. When we're anxious, we're often taking sharp, short breaths in, without really exhaling. This breath brings balance.
- And finally, counting gives your mind a place to focus. Instead of worrying, or letting your mind wander, you have a number to think about for each moment.