Expert reveals deep breathing method to help lessen anxiety

Take five minutes at your desk right now - you've earned it.
Take five minutes at your desk right now - you've earned it. Photo credit: Getty.

The daily stresses of everyday life can often see us running from place to place, barely stopping to eat, drink or take a breath. 

When we do crash out at home, a glass of wine or comforting dinner might be the first thing we reach for - but our highly important deep, soothing breathing may be falling by the wayside. 

Experts say we're chronically under-breathing - gasping for air instead of taking the deep diaphragmatic breaths our bodies require. 

Giving air to this cause is New Zealander Sarah Laurie who after 15 years in the wellness industry began working in the anxiety field - the world's fastest growing mental health issue. 

Laurie says she's spent the last four years working with scientists, cell biologists, breathing physicians and industry experts from around the world, eventually starting her company 'Take a Breath', which aims to teach people how to breathe - something you might have thought you were doing right all along. 

She even goes as far as to say that "100 percent of people experiencing anxiety are breathing ineffectively." 

Sarah Laurie has spent the last several years researching the power of breath.
Sarah Laurie has spent the last several years researching the power of breath. Photo credit: Supplied.

"The pace and pressure of the 21st century has meant that our breathing patterns have shifted, and many of us now chest breathe, without realising," she tells Newshub. 

"When we breathe into our chest, and shallow breathe, it intricately changes our state.

"Chest breathing causes our stress response to engage, which increases our heart rate, blood pressure and blood volume, as well as changing our thought patterns, to become defensive, cautious and worried."

So, how do we reset our breathing pattern and breathe 'correctly'? 

"First, let's take a look at how you breathe. Place one hand on your tummy and the other on your chest.  Take a breath and see which hand moves.  It should be the hand on your tummy. If your hand on your chest moves, it's simply an indicator that your breathing pattern needs to change," she explains. 

"The idea is that your lungs should fill. That air should travel as far down as the bottom of your lungs, which 'hang down' behind your ribs.  When your lungs expand with air your tummy will rise."

Laurie says in order to "reset" your breathing patterns, you need to get your body back into the habit of effective breathing, by actively breathing into your tummy at regular intervals during the day.  

"Your breathing is part of your autonomic nervous system, and you're not designed to think about it. For this reason, we forget."

Instead, set a reminder on your phone, or use an app to remind you to take a deep belly breath "every 30 minutes or so".  

"You don't need to stop what you're doing – simply take a few breaths and feel your tummy expand," she says.

"If you've been a chest breather, it will feel awkward as you try to breathe more deeply.  

"Start slowly and know that it will become more comfortable within a few days."

Hopefully, you've been doing as you read this article and you're already feeling calmer. If so, it's a sign you need to breathe deeply more often. 

For those experiencing anxiety or wanting help with their breathing, Laurie will be holding free seminars around the country over February and March. You can find more information on the 'Take a Breath' website.