The Importance of Breathing

Shannon Tavis, LMSW

Over time, humans have evolved to be shallow chest-breathers. However, this is NOT best way for us to
breathe. Engaging your diaphragm (the muscle in your stomach) while breathing in and out can make

the world of a difference with multiple areas of our day-to-day life. You may have heard to take deep
breaths when stressed or anxious, and this is great advice, but you do not have to be under distress to
gain the benefits of this breathing style.

Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to improve depression and anxiety levels, reduce cortisol
levels (which can help with regulating weight), lower blood pressure, better quality sleep, and improved
energy levels.

There are lots of ways to practice this breathing style, but the easiest is to sit up straight with your hand
on your stomach and pretend there is a balloon in your belly. When you breath in, pretend the balloon is
filling with air and puff out your stomach as you slowly and deeply inhale. Before you immediately let
the air out, hold onto that air for one full second. Holding your breath before exhaling stimulates your
Vagus nerve which physically slows your heart rate and makes you feel calmer. When you do exhale, pull
your diaphragm in (pretend your pulling your belly button toward your back). Again – remember to do
all of these steps slowly and deeply. Here is the outline below:

 5 second inhale (slowly with diaphragm being pushed out)
 1 second hold
 5 second exhale (slowly with diaphragm being pulled in)


Regular practice of this breathing style (every day for at least 5 minutes if possible) will lead to the above
health benefits. You can do this breathing practice while in traffic, right before bed, or while sitting at
your desk. There is no wrong time to practice!


For more information on Shannon and her specialties, click here

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