If you’re reading this article, it might mean that you’re looking for a way to decrease your anxiety at work. Fortunately, we can help. Breathing exercises are a handy, yet often overlooked tool to help boost your mental health – even in the workplace. Here are some of our favourite work-friendly breathing exercises for beginners that you can try out today.
What are Breathing Exercises?
Breathing exercises are a collection of activities that change how you breathe, either by altering the rate at which you inhale and exhale or by focusing closely on your breathing patterns. These can have a positive effect on mental health, physical health and nervous system activity.
According to Psychology Today, breathing exercises can help with racing thoughts, so if you find yourself constantly thinking about the same work-related negative issues, the exercises below may help.
There are many different types of breathing exercises. Some, like those included in our list below, are very simple and can be achieved by anyone with minimal effort. Keep reading to learn more about these easy breathing exercises for beginners.
Read More: What are Racing Thoughts?
Why are Breathing Exercises Important For Mental Health at Work?
Breathing exercises are important for mental health at work, because they provide an opportunity to pause, refocus and recharge. Being able to step back and reflect on the day’s activities can help you recharge, relax and find clarity. This makes breathing exercises an important tool for workplace wellness initiatives.
Breathing exercises can boost your mood and help foster a positive mindset, improve your energy levels and help you maintain your composure. This is especially useful for people who may experience anxiety or racing thoughts at work.
Related Reading: How To Manage Your Stress Container
Can I Practice Breathing Exercises For Beginners at Work?
The answer is a resounding yes. Breathing exercises for beginners can be done just about anywhere. Plus, there are countless breathing exercises to choose from. Most breathing exercises do not require any equipment. This means that you can practice them with ease at your desk or in a quiet breakout room.
The wellbeing of employees in the workplace should be a priority in businesses – and a few deep breaths are not likely to interrupt your workflow. In fact, these exercises are likely to leave you feeling more productive, calm and alert, which may improve your work performance. Take a few minutes to refresh your mind and body before continuing with your day with our favourite exercises below.
4 Work-Friendly Breathing Exercises For Beginners
Lengthen Your Exhale
A simple breathing exercise for beginners is to actively lengthen your exhale. This elongated exhale helps you regulate your fight-or-flight response, and it has been shown that lengthening your exhale can help alleviate nervous system responses like anxiety or panic.
To practice lengthening your exhale:
1) Sit comfortably in your chair, with your arms resting on the armrests or your thighs. Close your eyes if you want to.
2) Take a deep, slow breath in through the nose as you count to 4. Hold for a count.
3) Slowly exhale through the nose, this time counting to 6. Try to keep your breaths as even as possible, allowing your lungs to completely empty by the 6th count.
4) Repeat as necessary.
Box breathing is another simple breathing exercise for beginners to try. By focusing on the counting aspect of this exercise, your mind can find calm while the deep breaths help regulate your nervous system. Box breathing requires you to take a series of breaths, pausing between each repetition, as follows.
To practice box breathing:
1) Sit comfortably in your chair, with your arms resting on the armrests or your thighs. Close your eyes if you want to, but this is not a necessity.
2) Inhale deeply for 4 slow counts
3) Hold your breath for 4 slow counts
4) Exhale slowly through the nose for 4 slow counts
5) Repeat as needed.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
Alternate nostril breathing is an ancient pranayama exercise, utilised in yoga practises worldwide for centuries. It has been shown to help balance the nervous system and improve concentration.
To practice alternate nostril breathing:
1) Using your right hand, close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale slowly through your left nostril for a count of 4.
2) Hold your breath for a count of 1, then alternate nostrils by closing your left nostril with your forefinger.
3) Gently exhale through your right nostril for a count of 4, then inhale through that same nostril for a count of 4.
4) Hold your breath for a count of 1, then alternate nostrils once more by closing your right nostril with your thumb.
5) Gently exhale through your left nostril for a count of 4.
6) Repeat for as long as you need.
Visual Breathing Exercises
If you’re more of a visual learner, or find it difficult to focus your mind in the office, you could try a visual breathing exercise, like this Breathing Bubble by Calm.
To follow a visual breathing exercise:
1) Set a visual breathing exercise prompt for 1-2 minutes or more.
2) Follow the prompts on screen to inhale, hold and exhale. Simple and effective.
Breathing Exercises For Beginners: Guided Meditation
Guided meditations are a great way to ensure your focus on the breath is effective. Whilst also usually including positive affirmations or messages of gratitude and acceptance, they often talk you through the sensations involved in your breathing, and count out breaths for you. This can be a great aid, especially for beginners.
If you are allowed headphones in your workplace, there are many guided meditations that will talk you through deep-breathing exercises. You could quietly listen to one of these at your desk, or listen to a short guide on one of your breaks if you want to find a quiet spot to close your eyes. You can also find longer guided meditations to help develop your breathing exercises out-of-hours.
Want To Improve Mental Health In Your Workplace?
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Our fully-accredited MHFA Courses offer your team a comprehensive understanding of mental health issues and techniques to improve the company culture and wellbeing in your workplace.
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