One way to increase your chances of enjoying a happy marriage is to remember to breathe deeply. Are you surprised by this recommendation? You're probably not the only one.
The concept of deep breathing as a valuable tool in creating a satisfying marriage may sound strange at first, but that's because most of us don't give much thought to the subject of breathing. And breathing isn't usually tied in with marital happiness unless someone cracks a joke about the "heavy breathing" associated with sex.
What are the benefits of deep breathing that spouses may want to consider? Here's a partial list:
? prevents stress from building up,
? reduces tension that is already there,
? increases energy level,
? reduces insomnia and fatigue,
? reduces general anxiety,
? helps relaxation process,
? lowers blood pressure,
? helps mental alertness, and
? helps in control of emotions.
Just think-all of these benefits from just adding some breathing awareness and exercises to your day! No, this isn't a magic cure-all that comes with a guarantee. But it's free, it's easy, it can be done anywhere, it requires no special equipment, and it's safe-so why not experiment and see for yourself?
But what's wrong with the way you're breathing now, you might ask. If you're a typical adult, you probably breathe most of the time using only your chest muscles, which fills only the top part of the lungs with each breath. This doesn't allow you to take in sufficient oxygen or to eliminate sufficient carbon dioxide. Thus, your body becomes oxygen starved, and toxins build up.
When you're under stress or feeling anxious, your heart rate goes up as you breathe faster and take shallow breaths. In contrast, when you slow down and breathe deeply instead of taking fast, shallow breaths, your heart doesn't have to work as hard, and you are counteracting the effects of stress, tension, and anxiety.
And with that basic understanding, you don't have to be a rocket scientist to connect the dots between deep breathing and feeling better physically and emotionally and how this could affect a marriage relationship.
If you feel better physically, are more relaxed, less stressed and tense, are sleeping better, and are less anxious and fatigued, then you're going to be more likely to have the energy and stamina to put more effort into your marriage relationship. You'll also be more likely to be able to control your emotions better and less likely to "snap" over something minor. And you might be a lot more fun to be around!
Remember that old adage to "Take a deep breath and count to ten" when you're angry? That's still good advice. When you're irritated, agitated, or angry with your spouse, stop and take several deep breaths before you respond and make things even worse.
If you still feel that your anger is escalating, say that you need to take a short break before continuing the conversation. Then, go into another room (if there's no other place to retreat, go into the bathroom) and do several minutes of breathing exercises.
Likewise, when you're feeling stressed and tense, stop and do some breathing exercises before the tension builds up and spills over into your marriage relationship. By using breathing awareness and techniques to relieve tension, you'll be able to prevent many disagreements and arguments that occur when spouses are stressed. You might even find that remembering to breathe deeply during sex increases your pleasure.
Here are some simple breathing exercises you can work into your daily life to help you relax and cope better with stress and relationship challenges:
Exercise l: To experience the difference between chest breathing and deep belly breathing, place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your tummy. You will probably notice that the hand on your chest is moving with each breath.
Your goal is to reverse this and have the hand on your tummy move instead of the hand on your chest as you inhale and exhale. If it's hard to experience this sitting down, you may wish to lie down on the floor where it can be easier to experience belly breathing initially.
Just observe your breathing as you take deep breaths and feel your belly rise with each inhalation. Do this for several minutes until your breathing slows down and you begin to feel more relaxed.
Exercise 2: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and focus your attention on the two pauses that occur during the breathing process. The first is just after you inhale (right before you start to exhale) and the second is just after you exhale (right before you inhale again).
Don't try to control your breathing; just focus on the two pauses, noticing how the breath pauses slightly each time. Just notice the two slight pauses as you breathe in and out. As you focus your attention on the two pauses, you'll find that you are breathing more deeply and are getting more relaxed.
Take this mini-stress-relieving break twice a day and allow yourself at least five minutes of peaceful relaxation each time.
Exercise 3: Put one hand on your abdomen right below your navel. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Imagine that you are blowing up a balloon as your lower abdomen starts filling up with air.
Count slowly to 3 as you inhale. You'll notice that your hand is rising as your abdomen fills with air.
Pause and count to 2. Then exhale slowly through your nose to a count of 3. Imagine that all of the air is leaving the balloon. Repeat this several times.
Exercise 4: Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and take a deep breath as you count slowly to 4. Then hold your breath for a count of 4.
Next, exhale slowly to a count of 8, making your exhalation twice as long as your inhalation. You may want to put one hand on your abdomen to be sure you are breathing deeply from your belly. Repeat several times.
Nancy J. Wasson, Ph.D., is co-author of Keep Your Marriage: What to Do When Your Spouse Says "I don't love you anymore!" This is available at http://www.KeepYourMarriage.com, where you can also sign up for the free weekly Keep Your Marriage Internet Magazine to get ideas and support for improving your marriage.