by Braco Pobric

“Take a deep breath” is commonly taken as a figure of speech, but many people don’t understand what deep breathing can actually do for us physically and mentally.

Throughout history, many teachers have believed that deliberate breathing exercises can be extremely valuable in enhancing our well-being. Numerous studies have now given us solid evidence of the positive effects that breathing exercises can have on the nervous system.

One such study by Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg, published in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, showed that breathing exercises can rapidly bring us to the present moment and reduce stress.

In addition, this research shows that breathing exercises can improve your heart rate, and help treat depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Utilizing breathing techniques and drawing on work by martial arts expert Thomas Crum, I use the following exercise multiple times every day, the first being right after my meditation routine, called “Three Deep Breaths.”

I have extended Crum’s three breaths to five breaths. Keep in mind that this is a flexible exercise and you should create one that works for you.

The following are detailed directions for this exercise:

First breath
Take a deep breath and breathe out.

Second breath
Inhale again and as you exhale, express your gratitude. For example:

  • I am grateful for my health
  • I am grateful for my children
  • I am grateful for my wife.

Third breath
Take another breath in and exhale. Focus on one thing that you want to be today. For example:

  • Today I will be calm.
  • Today I will be patient.
  • Today I will let go of judgment.

Fourth breath
Inhale again and as you exhale say aloud a thought that represents your ideal self. Who are you and who do you want to be? For example:

  • I am a loving, generous individual who always strives to do the right thing.
  • I am a kind human being who wants to help others.
  • I am a mindful individual and I live in the moment as much as possible.

Fifth breath
Take a deep breath in and out to finish.

How does it feel? Consider making a commitment to do this at least once a day.

Braco PobricBraco Pobric is an author, life and executive coach, speaker, educator, and founding member and Chief Happiness Officer of the Institute for Advanced Human Performance. He is a certified Positive Psychology Coach and former certified trainer and coach for Dale Carnegie Training. He currently holds a leadership role with a global financial company, and lives in New Jersey with his wife, Nevenka, and their cat Ringo. This article is excerpted from Braco’s book Habits and Happiness: How to Become Happier and Improve Your Wellbeing by Changing Your Habits.