For centuries, cultures across the world have used breathing exercises to calm the mind and body. It’s long been understood that without proper breathing habits, it’s impossible to be 100% healthy.
Breathing exercises are simple, yet very versatile. Plus, they’ve proven to be effective when stress levels are high. They can be done on their own, but breathing exercises are also an essential part of calming practices like meditation and yoga.
At Lighthouse Recovery we offer addiction treatment in Dallas, TX that utilizes a variety of breathing techniques that are customized to the unique needs of each person. But some rehab centers in Dallas are very clinical and overlook the importance of taking a holistic approach that includes breathing exercises. Their patients never know breathing is a tool that can help out during addiction recovery, so it’s never utilized.
Decades of research has revealed the many benefits of breathing exercises. Below we explain how those benefits help during addiction recovery and years into sobriety.
What Physically Happens When We Breathe
It’s easy to forget about breathing because it’s an automatic, subconscious act. We actually learn to breathe in utero. At 32 weeks, an unborn child is beginning to expand and contract its lungs. It’s preparation for breathing the moment they enter the world.
Breathing is a vital function for survival. Even just three minutes without oxygen is enough to cause brain damage. Despite its importance, many people aren’t fully aware of what is happening with each breath we take. Or that the lungs need the assistance of muscles, tissue and blood vessels to breathe.
To understand the benefits of breathing, it’s best to first know what physically happens when we breathe:
- The lungs expand to inhale oxygen-rich air.
- The oxygen transfers from your lungs to your blood.
- Arteries then circulate the oxygenated blood around the body, delivering oxygen to tissue and cells.
- The lungs simultaneously take in carbon dioxide from the blood.
- The lungs contract to exhale breath that releases the carbon dioxide.
Taking in oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide is necessary to live. Lack of oxygen due to poor breathing can put your body in flight-or-fight mode. It’s a stressful mental state, which is why breathing exercises are so beneficial.
The Benefits of Breathing
Proper breathing techniques and exercises aren’t just important for survival. There’s a wide range of benefits that a person can experience once they start using deep breathing exercises. Below are some benefits that directly apply to addiction recovery and maintain sobriety.
Reduced Stress and Anxiety
For many people, drug and/or alcohol use is closely related to stress. It’s a very common trigger, and detrimental for someone who hasn’t found a healthy stress reliever.
If the idea of just Googling “sober living near me” generates stress, deep breathing exercises can make a huge difference in your recovery. Stress and anxiety can hold back progress and even increase the chance of a relapse. If chronic relapse is a problem, doing breathing exercises when you feel overwhelmed is highly recommended.
Deep breathing exercises can help slow your heart rate and the number of breaths you need to take each minute. It has a calming effect that can reduce and counter the effects of cortisol, the hormone that’s released by stress.
When you’re feeling stressed try the Alternate Nasal Breathing Exercise. A study in 2013 showed that this technique, which involves drawing in deep breaths using just one nostril at a time, made people feel less stressed.
Better Sleep Quality
Quality sleep is closely linked to your ability to relax. But if a person isn’t getting good sleep they are more susceptible to stress. It can also have negative effects on temperament and emotions. It’s a vicious cycle that can impact sleep for years. However, there could be a simple solution – deep breathing exercises.
Whenever you’re having trouble sleeping, the 3-Part Breathing Exercise could help you fall asleep. This exercise is very simple. You inhale deeply, hold for a beat and then exhale all the way. While breathing, focus on how your body feels. After a few breaths, extend the exhale so that it’s two times as long as the inhale.
Enhanced Sense of Overall Wellness and Feeling Centered
With the mental and physical benefits comes a sense of overall wellness. When there’s an overall sense of wellness it creates a feeling of being more centered and balanced. It’s a welcome feeling that can make you feel more grounded even while going through addiction recovery.
Whenever you feel yourself getting off balanced you can do a breathing exercise to calm your mind and get centered again. One you may want to try is called Box Breathing. During this exercise you take long, deep breaths while focusing on the oxygen that you are taking in and how it is restoring your body.
It Can Be Done Anywhere at Any Time
Breathing exercises are a technique you can take with you as you move from the treatment facility to your next stage in recovery. They can be done anywhere at any time on your own without any special equipment, making breathing exercises one of the best strategies for anyone facing addiction.
You never know when you’ll be put into a bad position or have the urge to use again. Regardless of the situation, breathing exercises are at your disposal.
The Effects Are Felt Fast
Breathing exercises aren’t a tactic that takes time to build up. All it takes is a few minutes to start feeling the effects. So when you need to find your center and calm down fast, deep breathing exercises are the first thing you should try.
Unfortunately, many facilities for addiction treatment in Dallas and beyond don’t stress the importance of breathing properly. They don’t help patients understand why proper breathing techniques make a difference. They don’t teach simple breathing exercises that are a healthy way to cope with anxiety.
At Lighthouse Recovery we understand how difficult addiction recovery is and why finding triggers along with healthy coping mechanisms is vital. When we take a holistic approach that starts with the basics it provides a stronger foundation for sober living.