New Year, Better Mental Health?
To start the new year on the right foot, our therapist Jane offers a simple tip to improve your mental health.
We now are much more aware of our physical health and how to keep our bodies in shape doing active things regularly like weekly Pilates classes, Yoga, Body Balance and cardiovascular work such as running, cycling and swimming. More and more of us are going for regular monthly or six weekly treatments such as Massage, Reflexology, Cranio-Sacral Therapy and Acupuncture and finding great benefit from all of these.
Focused Breathing – 4-7-8 Breathing
Here is something simple to add to your daily life in 2018 to help your mental health: focused breathing. Practised on a daily basis it takes only a couple of minutes (if that) and can be done anywhere, anytime – and it’s free!
It’s great to do particularly if you are feeling anxious and want to calm yourself. I find I feel generally happier and more balanced after doing it and that I have more clarity, making better day-to-day decisions. The day usually flows better! It’s known as 4-7-8 breathing.
Although you can do 4-7-8 breathing in any position, sit with your back straight while learning the exercise – and even better sit on the edge of a chair (tucking your tail bone under) with feet hip-distance apart and hands in your lap, palms turned up. Place the tip of your tongue against the ridge of tissue just behind your upper front teeth, and keep it there through the entire exercise. You will be exhaling through your mouth around your tongue; try pursing your lips slightly if this seems awkward.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight. This is one breath.
- Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Note that you always inhale quietly through your nose and exhale audibly through your mouth. The tip of your tongue stays in position the whole time. Exhalation takes twice as long as inhalation.
The absolute time you spend on each phase is not important; the ratio of 4:7:8 is important. If you have trouble holding your breath, speed the exercise up but keep to the ratio of 4:7:8 for the 3 phases. With practice, you can slow it all down and get used to inhaling and exhaling more and more deeply.