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Last Updated on April 19, 2018

How Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises Can Make You a Better Parent

How Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises Can Make You a Better Parent

Do you want to be a better parent? Chances are, the answer is “yes”. After all, as parents we are always looking out for the wellness of our children–and that especially includes our own interactions with them.

What if I told you that simple deep breathing exercises can vastly improve your parenting skills?

Not convinced? Read on to learn how this simple technique can make you a better parent.

Good Versus Better Breathing

Breathing is something that we take for granted. We’re potentially not even conscious of it, yet it is a key ingredient to human function and performance.

Breathing is a human reflex we’re born with; it’s attached to our nervous system, which has an input and an output. As a parent you most likely cried with joy at your kids first screaming breath; that very moment changing your life forever.

Most likely, though, no one told you as you dove into the art of parenthood that your breathing patterns have a profound affect on us.

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If you have poor breathing patterns (input), you’ll have poor motor output, which can result in muscle compensations, stress and even possible injuries.

Breathing plays a huge role in optimal nervous system function, proper motor function, relaxation, focus, and efficiency.

Today I’m going to take you on a journey into what deep breathing is all about. You’ll learn how it is congruent with less-stressed parenting, and how to go about fitting that in with everything else you have to juggle.

Two Types of Breathing

There are two types of breathing:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing is the most natural way in which the breath utilizes the deep muscles allowing the spine to be stable and mobile. This type of breathing comes from the rib cage and allows the lungs to expand top to bottom, front to back and to each side.
  • Chest breathing (also known as apical breathing) refers to a pattern of breathing where the movement is confined to the upper chest. This type of breathing results from fewer muscles being utilized, so the muscles that are used (upper chest, neck and shoulders) undergo more stress and more movement to facilitate the breathing rhythms.

Deep breathing is not simply expanding your breath as much as possible. Deep breathing is actually defined above as ‘diaphragmatic breathing’.

“Your posture and presence is everything; how you hold yourself determines how your connect to yourself, others and the world around you.”

The diaphragm is a dome shaped band of connective tissue that sits under the ribcage. It helps to draw air into the lungs and the belly when one is taking a full breath, and it massages the body’s organs as it drops down.

The diaphragm is a storehouse for emotional tension, stress, and anxiety.

As our posture changes to a more forward folding movement, such as while sitting or driving for extended periods of time, the diaphragm is ‘locked down’ or becomes ‘stuck’. Similarly the pressures and postures put on a woman’s body throughout pregnancy and during the post-natal period is an example of this.

We go through our lives and forget to breathe into the belly at rest, the sympathetic nervous system of fight/flight and freeze is activated.

The diaphragm and breathing has a direct link to the nervous system.

Carrying out deep diaphragmatic breathing can assist you, your family and your kids to overcome the stresses of everyday life. You be able to live more vitally with more energy, better posture and less pain.

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How to Breathe Better

To really get the best from your deep breathing exercises, it is wise to first understand the three main components of deep breathing:

  1. Opening up the chest
  2. Releasing the diaphragm
  3. Practicing the breath work

I’ve made a video that you can watch below, or follow the written instructions underneath the video.

  1. Open the chest by applying medium to hard pressure to the sternum area using your fingers or a lacrosse ball. Then use your fingers/the ball to ‘shift the skin’ by dragging your chosen implement back and forth. This can be a little painful but can massively assist reduction in neck/shoulder pain so I truly recommend it. Watch the video if you’d like more clarity on exactly how to do this.
  2. Release the diaphragm by doing the same ‘shifting the skin’ at the edge of the ribcage 1-2 inches below the sternum. This is where the diaphragm sits. By doing so you’re inviting movement in the tissues (muscles & fascia) of the diaphragm and surrounding area.
  3. Practice the breath work by first placing one hand on your chest and one hand on your tummy just below your ribs. Practice breathing into your lower hand and keeping the upper hand immobile. Once confident in practicing this type of breath you can add ‘resistance’ to your breath by sucking air through your fingers as you breathe.

Go Deep with Ease

Keep these tips in mind when you’re practicing diaphragmatic/deep breathing:

  • It can take some time to relearn how to breathe. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Take some time each day to practice this exercise. The nice thing is, you can do it anywhere.
  • Try to practice at a time when you’re already relaxed. This will make it easier to take deeper breaths.
  • If you’re having trouble taking deep breaths, try going to the hand on chest and hand on tummy breath. Aim to keep the hand on your chest immobile as you breath into the lower hand on your tummy.
  • Practice taking 5 breaths each morning as you rest in bed. For each breath count in for a count of 3, hold for a second then breathe out for a count of 4.
  • In time and with practice you will get an idea about how long you need to practice deep breathing exercises to reduce stress. Early on it may be helpful to set a particular time limit, for example, 5 breaths if you’re pressed for time.
  • Keep in mind that it’s usually more effective to practice several shorter periods of deep breathing rather than single long episodes of deep breathing. Practicing more often also helps you to easily incorporate deep breathing as a habit into your lifestyle.

Take a Deep Breath and Improve Your Parenting

Deep breathing is just one method of reducing–or at least coping with–stress in your life; but, there are many stress management techniques that may help you live with more joy and less worry every day.

It is something that can easily be practiced in minimal time. I suggest aiming to commit to just 5 breaths each day after the chest opening and diaphragm release.

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Doing those two things in conjunction with deep breathing will massively help you to feel less stressed, more comfortable and at ease throughout your day.

Even better, encourage the idea that a stress management lifestyle can be a family affair!

Try some of the practices mentioned above with your children along with yourself so that everyone can reap the benefits of deep breathing.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

More by this author

Camilla Dempster

I teach women to ditch the binge/restrict/guilt cycle around their body, food and exercise.

Working in the Third Trimester (The Complete Survival Guide) How to Eat Healthy on a Budget (The Definitive Guide) How Practicing Deep Breathing Exercises Can Make You a Better Parent

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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