Breathe Your Way to Relaxation

a woman in an office breathing to remain calm

Proper breathing plays a crucial role in whole-body health. Controlled breathing can help regulate the autonomic nervous system and positively impact “hard-to-treat, digestive symptoms aggravated by stress, negative emotions, and other lifestyle triggers” says Jeffrey Lackner, PsyD, University at Buffalo.

Here are his tips on how to use the breath to relax.

Simple Breathing Relaxtion Technique

  1. Find a comfortable, quiet location.
  2. Close your eyes.
  3. Count “1” as you breathe in. Say “Relax” as you breathe out. With each exhalation, part your lips and gently exhale as if you were trying to flicker the flame of a candle without extinguishing it, or blow across a spoonful of soup without spilling a drop.
  4. As you breathe in, your belly should push out; as you breathe out, draw your belly in. Keep your chest still throughout.
  5. Focus your attention on the number or relaxing word without any other thoughts crossing your mind.
  6. Maintain a comfortable rate of breathing that is even and smooth.
  7. Count up to 10 and repeat.
  8. Practice two to three times daily for at least 10 minutes.
  9. As your skills improve, take this exercise from a controlled setting to the real world where you need it most.
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Personal communication: Jeffrey Lackner

Further Reading

Jeffrey Lackner and his colleague Christopher Radziwon tell us how proper breathing can reduce pain.


Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW

Casey Hersch, MSW, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker, author, and founder of Light Your Sparkle. She specializes in integrative treatment models for chronic illness. Inspired by her own struggles with autoimmune illnesses and trauma, she educates about empowerment and how to build individualized healing plans.