Diaphragmatic breathing, sometimes called abdominal breathing, is a popular technique that’s known for its anxiety-relieving effects, per an article in Medicines (Basel). It’s been used to improve the respiratory capacities of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition in which air gets trapped in the lungs, causing diaphragm muscle weakness. It involves taking slow, deep breaths through the nose, both inhaling and exhaling for six seconds. Your chest should remain still while your stomach expands as you actively engage the diaphragm.

Each time you breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and moves down toward your abdomen, per Harvard Health Publishing. And with every exhalation, it relaxes and moves upward, helping your abdomen to push air out of the lungs. This type of breathing allows for an efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body. It stimulates parasympathetic nervous system activity, slowing down your heart beat and lowering or stabilizing your blood pressure.

A study published in Perspectives in Psychiatric Care found that diaphragmatic breathing, when practiced over 8 weeks, helped bring down anxiety in patients in clinical and community settings. Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that diaphragmatic breathing can also treat stress, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, hypertension, and migraines, as well as improving quality of life in people with cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Breathing from the diaphragm may be beneficial for the brain, as well as the body’s cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory systems.

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