Our parasympathetic nervous system helps us recover from stress. When we breathe at a slow pace, generally between 5 and 7 breaths per minute for adults, our physiology shifts into a recovery state in which natural restorative processes become more active. This is associated with activation of the parasympathetic nervous system and it will occur within a few seconds of beginning that breathing pattern.
The link below points to a page with a series of videos that you can use to breathe with. Pick a pace and breathe with it. If a particular pace does not feel soothing then try a different pace. You are looking for a breathing pace that feels effortless and soothing. Your body should settle into it effortlessly. Most people like a pace between 5 and 7 breaths per minute.
Each video lasts about 90 seconds. That is enough to increase parasympathetic activation. You are welcome to repeat the video as many times as is comfortable. However, it is more effective if you practice 5-6 times per day, and that is easier to do if you keep each practice session short.
A couple of points:
- Breathe easily and do not try to fill your lungs with air on every breath, otherwise you will hyperventilate.
- Slower breaths are not better. It is more important to find a pace that feels soothing.
- Sometimes people like different paces at different times. That is OK.
- Always make sure that you are breathing comfortably. If you feel uncomfortable then stop practicing.
- If you feel short of breath or have difficulty breathing then stop breathing with the pacer.