Calm. Composure. Confidence. Each is of great benefit in the workplace, and you can build them all through deep breathing.
Call it diaphragmatic breathing, abdominal breathing, natural breathing or belly breathing—it works! It is breathing through the diaphragm, an organ under the lungs. Most of us get into the habit of breathing with our chest, which results in a shallow breath. That’s a problem because chest breathing is an evolutionary adaptation to emergencies: “fight or flight.” It hinders us during speeches, negotiations or meetings when we need more oxygen. Chest breathing also creates the impression that we are nervous.
“Gratitude breathing” is a powerful way to shift your perception. You realize how much people have done for you and how much you have accomplished. It is not happy people who are grateful; it’s grateful people who are happy.
Concentrate on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, and invent your own “gratitude breathing” mantras. For example:
- Breathe in success, breathe out failure.
- Breathe in accomplishments, breathe out disappointments.
- Breathe in happiness, breathe out sadness.
- Breathe in joy, breathe out sorrow.
- Breathe in faith, breathe out fear.
Gratitude has a wide range of benefits, both mental (a greater sense of well-being and more emotional resilience) and physical (a stronger immune system). This breathing grounds you and deepens your awareness of the positives in your life.
Focus and breathing go hand in hand. Focus is the gateway to all thinking: perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem solving and decision making.
In your morning walk, run or workout, develop your own “breathing game.” Breathe into your diaphragm for four steps and exhale for four. Do this for one minute, then breathe in for eight steps and out for eight. Continue to increase the counts and watch your focus grow.
Singing is another easy way to improve breathing. Willie Nelson says, “When you’re singing, you’re using extra muscles, and it requires a lot of exercise and breathing... If I have any fitness advice for people, I’d tell them to sing more. It’s good therapy, too.” Even if (like most people) you think you can’t sing, have fun with this exploration. After all, singing is dignified screaming!
Breathe in at the beginning of a musical phrase, and exhale as you allow the melody to float out on your breath. Singing activates both sides of the brain and stimulates concentration, awareness and receptivity. The deepened, rhythmic breathing that singing requires, coupled with acoustical frequencies involved in music, releases stress by stabilizing the heartbeat and increasing the flow of oxygen to the brain.
After a couple of songs, you will feel calmer, creating a sense of composure and boosting your confidence. You will be in the flow and at the peak of your abilities. iBi