I remember learning a couple important lessons about breathing as a child and teen. I mean, I already knew how to breath. We all do, right? We don’t even have to think about breathing to do it. We know the general importance of breathing; we have to breathe to live. This became especially poignant to me when, on several occasions, water went “down the wrong pipe” while I was swimming, leading to my panicked gasping for air. (Sounds like the panicked gasping for breath people take during Christmas shopping–LOL.) I also remember being taught how to breathe while engaged in various sports. I even remember a friend being so upset that we had to remind them to “breathe…just breathe. Breathe in and let it out slowly.”
That’s the rub, isn’t it? As natural as it is to breathe, we seem to forget to breathe when we get upset, frightened, or angry. Our heart rate increases. Our mind starts to race. No wonder…we need to breathe. Breathing will help bring our heart rate back to normal and allow our minds the freedom to think more rationally rather than simply race to survive.
We encourage one another to breathe when stressed out because breathing helps our bodies manage stress and our “selves” maintain composure. As you can see, the benefits of breathing extend to the whole person. Breathing not only influences our lungs but our cardiovascular system, our neurological system, and even our digestion.
Why do I mention this in regard to family? Because encouraging our family members to “breathe” can reduce stress, improve mental health, reduce and manage symptoms of anxiety, and even lower blood pressure. Breathing can help keep family disagreements civil by lowering everyone’s heart rate, reducing the risk of falling into a state of “fight or flight,” and encouraging more clearheaded hearing and discussion.
Don’t believe it’s true? Try it out. The next time you find yourself in a heated discussion with your spouse, your teen, your toddler, or your parent…step back and take a deep breath. Breathe. Model intentional breathing during any time you find yourself upset or frustrated, angry or fearful. Your family will probably notice and will witness firsthand the benefits for you and for them. You will be pleasantly surprised at the benefit for the whole family.