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Breathing towards a calmer you

Most of us breathe automatically. That is, we leave it to our body and we don't even think about it. This is unfortunate because we could be doing it so much better and feeling better for it.

The automatic breaths we take are just enough to exist – the recommended daily intake of you like. But it's the therapeutic dose, the amount or frequency, that makes a real difference to our health and well-being.

For a start, the automatic breath is usually fairly shallow and up in the chest. It's also a 'panting' breath where the input and the output are basically the same.

Let me introduce you to - ta dah - the Vagal breath! It's a conscious breath - you decide to breathe this way. This results in a generally calmer you, and a better ability to deal with acute stressors. Recent studies confirm this.

What does it do?

Vagal breathing stimulates the Vagus nerve, the huge, wandering nerve that connects your brain to the rest of the body and affects the autonomic nervous system. Activating this nerve levels out your stress response, calms you, and reduces stress thereby reducing inflammation which as we know causes a host of problems.

Here's how to do it.

You need to breathe down into your diaphragm. Practice this by putting your hands over your stomach and breathing so that your fingers move apart when you breathe in. Your chest hardly moves at all. Breathe out slowly – as slowly as you can while still being comfortable. Practice until you have a natural rhythm. Now breathe like that … all the time. While you walk the dog, work at your computer, or do the laundry. Tummy in … tummy out.

You can also do a full Vagal breath to control nerves or a panic attack.

Take a deep breath from your diaphragm right up into your chest - hold it for three or four seconds. Then breathe out very slowly.

The tummy Vagal breath is proactive, it keeps the autonomic nervous system in balance. Notice it's also the same breath used while mediating. Close your eyes and do five minutes of it a few times a day.

That chest Vagal breath is reactive - for when you feel nervous or anxious.

If I was told I could only tell you one thing - this is the one thing. Practice it and I'm confident you'll feel better, also, you'll be getting more previous oxygen you your brain.

Breathe for life, you won't regret it.