I’m writing this post from 30,000ft, looking out of the plane window at the sun bouncing off the soft fluffy clouds below us. It’s an amazing sight and one that I often take for granted as I fly to visit clients around the world. But this flight is different. This flight is taking me for a week of relaxation. A week of family time. A week of fun on the ski slopes in Austria. And the view from the the window has reminded me of an important lesson. A lesson that I continually share with clients and one that it is important to remind myself of regularly, especially in a moment like this: Take a deep breath. When you want to refocus, when you want to relax, when you want to reset and become more present, take a deep breath. It’s a simple idea but not always an easy one to put into practice.
The breath is an incredibly powerful tool. The way you breathe affects the chemical balance in the body, influencing your feelings and the outcomes you achieve. When we’re stressed or anxious we tend to breathe more into the upper chest. The breath becomes shallow, less oxygen goes to the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, inhibiting our clarity of thought and we encourage our body’s adrenal response. Pay attention to how you are breathing next time you are reading an unpleasant email or find yourself preparing for a difficult conversation and I guarantee that the breath will be shallow and high. If you want to be more confident and to think more clearly in any situation, changing the way you breath will have a profound affect. There are three things to pay attention to:
Relax The Body
The first thing to focus on is relaxing the body. You can’t breath deeply if you are tense. Most of us grip with our stomach muscles which means the diaphragm can’t do it’s job properly. It’s time to let it all hang out and embrace the one-pack! Think about the body being as heavy as possible. Release the shoulders - another common area of tension - and imagine everything melting towards the floor. If the body is relaxed you’ll create more space to breathe.
Focus On The Out Breath
Ask a young child to take a deep breath and they purse their lips, puff out their chest and suck the air high up into their body rather than taking it deeply into the lungs. It seems that when we start to think about breathing in - something that ordinarily is a deeply unconscious act - we confuse ourselves and get in a muddle. Rather than focusing on the in breath, I suggest you focus on breathing out. Try expelling all of the air out of your lungs until the tank is completely empty, then just allow the new breath to drop into the body. This allows you to find a deeper more dynamic breathing pattern.
Find Your Rhythm
Everyone is different. Rather than trying to take the perfect breath, take your perfect breath. The more you develop your breathing technique, the deeper the breath will become but instead of trying to arrive at the destination, enjoy the journey instead. Notice the relationship between your in breath and out breath. How many seconds do you take for each? This is your personal rhythm for relaxation and once you’ve identified it you can use it to recreate that feeling on tap.
This simple focus on how you breathe can be transformational. It can enhance your performance and give you more choice when you find yourself under pressure. It’s also a really good way to help you to decompress and de-stress when you just want to relax. Which is exactly how I intend to use it now. So, as we begin our descent into Innsbruck I’m feeling very chilled indeed and looking forward to our adventures in the mountains. Happy breathing!