Breathe Deep: Your Metabolism Will Thank You!

Before you read any further, take a few seconds and pay attention to your breathing. Do you fill your lungs all the way down to below your ribs, or have you fallen into our society’s habit of quick, shallow breaths in the chest only? No wonder we’re all so stressed out!

Just a few minutes of deep breathing exercises a day is an impactful (and free!) way to lower your stress levels and regulate your hormones. It’s a great self-care activity for the stress-busting Phase 3 of the Fast Metabolism Diet, but really it’s something everybody can — and should — do any time you need a little oasis of calm in a crazy day.

Science is just starting to catch up to the benefits deep breathing can provide. Aside from easing stress and helping balance your hormones, deep breathing also:

  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Helps you relax any time (day or night)
  • Soothes anxiety
  • Calms the mind
  • Eases depression
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Offers a natural method of pain control
  • Might help keep your mind sharp
  • Lowers the fat-creating hormone cortisol

And believe it or not, deep breathing has even been shown to reduce radiation doses to your heart and lungs during some cancer therapies.

If you’re on the Fast Metabolism Diet, you may recognize some of those benefits — especially the calming, self-care and hormone-balancing — as things you can do to encourage weight loss. So if you’re doing everything else right but have stopped losing weight, deep breathing can be a powerful tool to help you bust through a plateau.

Deep breathing exercises

It’s easy for someone else to say “Hey, calm down and relax!” — but in the height of the moment when something is stressing you out, actually doing it can be a real challenge. Here are some deep breathing techniques you can use to ease your body into a state of relaxation:

Hit the pause button. Breathe in, then pause for three or four seconds; breathe out and pause for another three or four seconds. Doing this for even if a minute or two can help slow you down and calm any mind chatter that may be going on in there.

Take it slow. Breathe slowly in and out, filling your lungs all the way down to your belly every time. (Rest one hand lightly on your stomach to make sure it rises and falls with every breath.) Aim for a minimum of 10 slow breaths per minute — you can work up to fewer, slower breaths — and try to keep it up for 5 or 10 minutes.

Alternate nostrils. Use your thumb to close off your right nostril and inhale through the left, letting your lungs fill all the way down to your diaphragm. When your lungs are full pause, close off your left nostril, and breathe out through the right. Breathe in through the right nostril, then close it off and breathe out through the left; continue alternating sides for several minutes.

This is just a sampling of all the breathing techniques out there — there really are a ton to choose from. Don’t be afraid to try several deep breathing exercises until you find one that you really like; the fact that you take the time to do it is much more important than the exact technique you use.