Enhancing Mental Well-Being Through Breathing Techniques: Effective Exercises for Relaxation and Clarity

Bryn Durocher

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Breathing techniques have been widely used to relax the body and mind from anxiety and stress. It also helps reduce the “fight-or-flight” response, a reaction to stress that causes you to flee or stay and react (Harvard et al., 2020). #breathing techniques are important for #mentalwellness and involve breathing in and out deeply for different amounts of time (Zaccaro et al., 2018). These techniques offer advantages, as they yield positive outcomes that impact both the central and autonomic nervous systems. (Zaccaro et al., 2018). 

The autonomic nervous system regulates blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate, among other things (Waxenbaum et al., 2022). The central nervous system includes the brain and spinal cord and reacts to sensory input (Thau et al., 2022). With this information in mind, it is already easy to see how breathing techniques and their connection to the two systems could be helpful for us when we are anxious or stressed. Keep reading to uncover the biology and techniques for deep breathing.

The Science Behind Breath and Mind Connection

Let us focus on the central nervous system, brain, and spinal cord. Before diving into everything, I first want to explain that brainwaves are waves of electrical activity (Harris, 2014) that help with emotional and cognitive functions in the brain (Center for Attention Deficit and Learning Disorders, 2023). Physiological (bodily) occurrences seen in the central nervous system during breathing techniques include a lower amount of theta brainwaves in the brain and a higher amount of alpha brainwaves (Zaccaro et al., 2018). These amounts are related to relaxation, with reduced theta waves found in relaxed sleep states (Center for Attention Deficit and Learning Disorders, 2023). 

Furthermore, deep breathing sends more oxygen to the brain, allowing it to think clearly and realize that you are safe (The University of Toledo Counseling Center, 2023). The relaxation of your heart rate, as mentioned in the introduction of this article, is also something that alerts your brain to its safety since a high heart rate is related to anxiety (Dimitriev et al., 2016). 

#StressRelief and deep breathing have a great relationship. When you #BreatheEasy, your salivary cortisol levels improve (Perciavalle et al., 2016), which indicates your stress (Hellhammer et al., 2009).  

Breathing Techniques for Immediate Relaxation

Norelli and colleagues (2022) recommend that breathing techniques “be practiced over time and implemented regularly for optimal stress reduction.” The first breathing technique is one that I have used many times in my life, and I find it quite effective. You may have heard of it: it is called “box breathing” (Norelli et al., 2022). This entails inhaling through your nostrils for four seconds, followed by a four-second breath hold, releasing your breath for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, and repeating (Norelli et al., 2022). This will cause you to relax quickly and can be personalized to however many seconds or repetitions you require (Norelli et al., 2022). 

An additional breathing method that can provide rapid relief is the 4-7-8 technique. In this approach, you inhale for four seconds, retain your breath for seven seconds (do not hurt yourself), and exhale for eight seconds. It allows you to relax through increased oxygen and by being a distraction (Aktaş & İlgin, 2022).  

If you want something requiring less focus, you can also try breathing deeply in and out for relaxation and #mentalclarity (Blanchfield, 2022). 

Mindful Breathing for Clarity and Focus

In a previous article, we discussed mindful eating and its impact. Now, I will inform you about the benefits of mindful breathing. #MindfulBreathing provides #AnxietyRelief and causes you to have more positive thoughts (Cho et al., 2016). Stress is also significantly reduced (Komariah et al., 2022). To perform mindful breathing, just like mindful eating, you need to pay close attention to what is happening and feel acceptance towards it (Cho et al., 2016). You can try it meditation-style in a quiet room or anywhere you feel you can focus. It may not be easy at first, but with practice, it can be something that you incorporate into your daily routine.

Clarity and focus are increased through mindful breathing because when you #BreatheAndRelax through this technique, you find clarity in the calm (Gambino, 2020) and practice your ability to focus. It is natural that slow breathing would cause us to be calm because our breathing is shallow when panicking (Gambino, 2020).

Breathing Routines for Long-Term Mental Well-Being

Breathing techniques increase mental well-being; if you practice them often, you can train your brain to react to stress better (Mental Health First Aid USA). Make it into a routine: Pick three times daily to practice breathing techniques and repeat that often. Practice breathing techniques during stress and anxiety, especially to train your body’s reactions. We are aiming for a #calmmind and a feeling of #EmotionalBalance.

Harvard Health Publishing (2020) gives some tips on creating a routine, including:

-Having your unique place to breathe

-Not pushing yourself too hard, but still giving it your best attempt

-Practicing for 10-20 minutes each day

Furthermore, aside from the breathing exercises mentioned above, you can try other exercises that cause a “relaxation response” in the long term (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). These include yoga, meditation, tai chi, prayer, and guided imagery (Harvard Health Publishing, 2020). You can incorporate breathing exercises into all of these with practice. 


Breathing exercises can give quick and much-needed relief to anxiety and stress patients. It is a relatively easy coping and training technique with many advantages and varieties. It can be used discreetly anytime and inspire you to delve further into the world of coping techniques after seeing how easy and effective it can be. You must discover what works for you and try different techniques (safely). Breathing techniques really can be a lifesaver, and I hope they help you as much as they have helped me and others.


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