Belly Breathing to Decrease Stress and Improve Mood

Diaphragmatic Breathing


It may seem like an odd question, but, how do you breathe? Do you breathe only through your nose, or do you mouth breathe? Does your chest rise and fall with each breath, or is it your belly that expands and contracts?

Belly Best

A study published in the Frontiers of Psychology showed that diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, helps to decrease stress, enhance mood and improve focus and attention. Two groups of people were followed over an 8-week period. Half were taught and practised belly breathing while the other (control group) were instructed to breathe as per normal. All participants were tested for three things, prior to and after the study, including; cortisol levels (cortisol hormone is an accurate measure of stress within the body), mood (measured using PANAS scale) and attention span. There was a significant increase in all three measurements in those who practised belly breathing, whereas there was no statistical change in the control group.

Belly How

Best breathing practice is to only use your nose to breathe, inhale and exhale. Nasal breathing helps to activate the diaphragm, the muscle separating the chest and belly, our true breathing muscle. As the diaphragm muscle contracts or shortens on the inhale, lungs expand to receive more air, and your belly pops out (ever so slightly!). The reverse occurs on the exhale, belly button falls back towards the spine. When at rest, there should be no visible movement of chest or neck muscles.

Breathing well, using your diaphragm, not only makes you feel good, it improves your mood, mind and health. Learn how to retrain your breathing and belly breathe.