What is Deep Breathing?
Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing or abdominal breathing, is a type of breathing that involves using the diaphragm muscle to increase the inflow and outflow of air in the lungs.
The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that separates the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. It attaches to the base of the lungs and contracts when we inhale, creating a vacuum that draws air into them. When we exhale, it relaxes and pushes air out.
Most of us breathe shallowly most of the time, using only a fraction of our lung capacity. This means that we do not get enough oxygen into our bloodstream or remove enough carbon dioxide from it.
Shallow breathing can also activate our sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which is responsible for triggering the "fight-or-flight" response when we perceive a threat or stressor.
Deep breathing, on the other hand, allows us to use more of our lung capacity and exchange more oxygen and carbon dioxide with each breath. This means that we can improve our blood circulation, oxygen delivery, cellular metabolism, and waste removal processes. 
Deep breathing can also activate our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for restoring calmness and balance after a stressful event.
How Does Deep Breathing Work?
Deep breathing works by stimulating various physiological mechanisms that affect our body and brain. Some of these mechanisms include:
The Vagus Nerve
The vagus nerve is a long nerve that connects our brainstem with many organs in our body, such as the heart, lungs, stomach, and intestines. It acts as a major component of the PNS and regulates many functions related to digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, and inflammation. 
Deep breathing can activate the vagus nerve and enhance its effects on these functions. For example, deep breathing can lower our heart rate and blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and promote gut health. 
The Endocrine System
It is a network of glands that secrete hormones into our bloodstream to regulate various processes such as growth, metabolism, reproduction, and mood. By deep breathing, we can influence the production and release of certain hormones that benefits these processes. 
For example, deep breathing can increase endorphins levels, which are natural painkillers and mood boosters; oxytocin, which is associated with social bonding and trust; and melatonin, which regulates sleep cycles.
What Are The Benefits Of Deep Breathing?
Deep breathing has been shown to have numerous benefits for both physical and mental health. Some of these benefits include:
1. Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Deep breathing can help reduce stress and anxiety by stimulating the vagus nerve, a major component of the PNS. Activating the vagus nerve through deep breathing can increase your serotonin levels (the happy hormone) and decrease your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), creating a sense of well-being and calmness. 
Studies have found that deep breathing can reduce anxiety symptoms, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). 
2. Improving Focus
Deep breathing can help improve focus and attention by increasing oxygen flow to the brain. Oxygen is essential for brain function and cognition. Inhaling more oxygen through deep breathing can enhance mental clarity, memory, and concentration.
One study found that students who practiced deep breathing before taking an exam performed better than those who did not. 
3. Lowering Blood Pressure
Deep breathing can help lower blood pressure by activating the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for calming and relaxing the body. The PNS slows the heart rate and dilates the blood vessels, reducing the pressure.
One study found that people experiencing anxiety could lower their blood pressure by 30 points or more with deep breathing. 
4. Enhancing Sleep Quality
Deep breathing can help enhance sleep quality by promoting relaxation before bedtime. Many people have trouble falling or staying asleep because they are too tense or worried about something. Doing deep breathing exercises before bed can release tension from your body and mind and prepare you for a restful night's sleep. 
5. Boosting the Immune System
Deep breathing can help boost the immune system by improving lymphatic circulation and reducing inflammation. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and nodes that carries fluid containing white blood cells (the cells that fight infections) throughout the body. Deep breathing stimulates lymphatic flow and increases immune response. 
Additionally, deep breaths can lower inflammation levels by activating anti-inflammatory pathways via the vagus nerve. Inflammation is linked to many chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and depression. Deep breaths can alleviate these conditions. 
6. Supporting Core Stability
Deep breathing can help support core stability by strengthening diaphragmatic muscles and improving posture in the body.
The diaphragm plays a key role in respiration and core stability by supporting the spine and abdominal organs.
Deep breathing can train your diaphragm to work more efficiently and effectively, enhancing your respiratory capacity and core strength.
Furthermore, deep breaths can improve posture by aligning the spine, shoulders, neck, and head. Poor posture can cause pain, stiffness, fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, respiratory issues, etc. Correcting your posture through deep breaths can prevent or relieve these symptoms. 
Techniques for Deep Breathing
There are several deep breathing techniques you can try to unlock the benefits of this powerful practice:
1. Abdominal Breathing:
Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling your abdominal expand with your breath. Exhale slowly through your mouth, feeling your abdominal deflate.
2. Pursed Lip Breathing:
Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through pursed lips, as if you were blowing out a candle. This technique can be helpful for people with respiratory conditions like asthma.
3. Box Breathing:
Inhale deeply for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of four, and exhale slowly for a count of four before inhaling again. This technique can help reduce stress and anxiety.
4. Alternate Nostril Breathing:
Place your right thumb over your right nostril and inhale through your left nostril. Hold your breath briefly, then release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril. This technique can help calm the mind and balance the nervous system.
Deep breathing is a simple and powerful technique with numerous benefits for your mind and body. Incorporating deep breathing into your daily routine can reduce stress and anxiety, boost your immune system, improve your lung function, and increase your energy and focus. So take a deep breath, and unlock the power of this ancient practice for a healthier, happier you.
You May Also Like
The Power of Creative Expression in Mental & Physical Health
The Mental Benefits of Reading
Rewire Your Brain By Increasing Neuroplasticity
Effectiveness of Progressive Muscle Relaxation, Deep Breathing, and Guided Imagery in Promoting Psychological and Physiological States of Relaxation - PubMed (nih.gov)
The Influence of Breathing on the Central Nervous System - PMC (nih.gov)
Vagus Nerve and Vagus Nerve Stimulation, a Comprehensive Review: Part I - PubMed (nih.gov)
The role of deep breathing on stress - PubMed (nih.gov)
The Effectiveness of Diaphragmatic Breathing Relaxation Training for Reducing Anxiety - PubMed (nih.gov)
PTSD symptom reduction with mindfulness-based stretching and deep breathing exercise: randomized controlled clinical trial of efficacy - PubMed (nih.gov)
The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect and Stress in Healthy Adults - PubMed (nih.gov)
Effects of diaphragmatic deep breathing exercises on prehypertensive or hypertensive adults: A literature review - PubMed (nih.gov)
Self-Regulation of Breathing as an Adjunctive Treatment of Insomnia - PubMed (nih.gov)
Deep Breathing and the Lymphatic System - Lymphatic Yoga® Online Studio
The Use of Breathing Exercises in the Treatment of Chronic, Nonspecific Low Back Pain - PubMed (nih.gov)