If I had to guess, you probably never think about the way you're breathing. After all, you don't really have to, right? But the thing is, your breathing can subconsciously affect how you're feeling. Something that you might rarely think about, because of its autonomy, can actually make a huge difference in terms of your overall state of mind. Breathing has the power to affect your mood in so many ways; in fact, according to an expert breathing coach, the day-to-day stress you feel might be correlated to the quality of your inhales and exhales.
Because breathing is something you instinctively know how to do, Nevsah Karamehmet, a distinguished and highly respected international leader in the field of breath coaching, tells Elite Daily over email, you essentially have to "re-learn" how to move through your inhales and exhales — at least, if you want them to work for you rather than against you when you're stressed, anxious, or feeling otherwise out-of-sorts.
"Even if we all were born with a natural, perfect breath which was perfectly aligned with our respiratory system, we all learn to manipulate, control, [and] change our breathing consciously or unconsciously for different reasons," Karamehmet says.
Most of those reasons, she adds, have to do with suppressing certain emotions, particularly in times of stress.
Once you've grown accustomed to a certain way of breathing, Karamehmet explains, it's not uncommon for you to channel those habits in stressful situations, like on an airplane if you're afraid of flying, or even in more casual, everyday situations, like when you're falling asleep if you're anxious about something happening the next day, or when you're a bit nervous about meeting new people.
"Breathing habits get triggered unconsciously and automatically because they became a habit, a physiological habit, and if we don't work on them with basic behavioral science rules, they will get triggered every time there is a situation," the breathing coach tells Elite Daily.
The thing is, for the most part, you can't always get rid of or avoid situations in your life that put you in a bad mood. As Karamehmet points out, there will always be various sources of stress in your life, and therefore various situations that might cause your breathing to become shallow, erratic, or otherwise disrupted — which, according to the Calm Clinic, can lead to chest pain, lightheadedness, and even an irregular heartbeat if the problem isn't addressed sooner rather than later.
So instead of trying to avoid those situations (which would probably be impossible anyway), Karamehmet tells Elite Daily, "consciously watching the breath during stressful times, when we are angry, tired, when things don't feel right and we lose our focus, would be the best way to start."
I know what you're probably thinking: How does simply paying more attention to your breath make any real difference? But as an expert coach in the field, Karamehmet insists this is her biggest piece of advice for people who are looking for ways to manage mood swings and stress through their breathing.
"Do not manipulate [your breath]," she says. "Just watch. Be aware of what that breathing habit does to you — awareness is the key. Dysfunctional habits can be unlearned, and new habits can be learned, but only if you become aware of them first."
This might seem intimidating or unattainable, but all that breath awareness requires are simple mindfulness and meditation practices that are accessible to pretty much anyone. Once you can maintain that awareness of your breathing, you'll realize you have the power to shift your entire mood. From there, you can try a few relaxing breathing practices, such as balanced breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and cooling breath. It may not seem like it in the moment, but calming yourself in a stressful situation really is just a few inhales and exhales away.