Breathing Grounding Techniques

Breathing grounding techniques are beneficial to help yourself feel more regulated. Furthermore, deep breathing quiets the sympathetic (fight or slight; stress response) part of the autonomic nervous system, which triggers the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. However, deep breathing needs practice and you want to practice deep breathing when you don’t have high anxiety (if you always do deep breathing when stressed or in pain, your body may associate deep breathing with those states and it won’t be as effective).

The extension of the duration of exhalation can calm a person because the exhalation connects with the vagus nerve that calms us. So if you are not able to focus on an entire breathing pattern, just focusing on extending your exhale can help to calm the nervous system.

Breathing Grounding Techniques

Photo by Patrick Schneider on Unsplash

Breathing Grounding Techniques that You can Try

Belly or Diaphragmatic Breathing. Place one hand on your stomach, and the other on your chest. Breathe slowly and deeply into your belly. Try to keep your chest still.

4-7-8. Breathe in (inhale) slowly for 4 seconds. Then, hold your breath for 7 seconds. Finally, breathe out (exhale) slowly and softly, for 8 seconds. Repeat as many times as feels comfortable.

Paced Breathing. Slowly and deeply breathe into your belly. Try to average 5 or 6 breaths per minute. Exhale slower than you breathe in.

Paired Muscle Relaxation. This is a muscle relaxation technique that is paired with breathing. While doing belly breathing, tense your body muscle. Notice the tension in your body. Say the word “relax” as you exhale and release the tension. Notice the difference in your body.

Heart Breathing. While breathing slowly and deeply, imagine that you could breathe through the centre of your chest. Imagine breathing in around the heart space and breathing out through the heart space.

Boxed Breathing. Inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and exhale for 4 seconds. (You can increase the length of time for the sections as long as you stay at an equal length to each other, such as 5-5-5, 6-6-6, etc.)

Pairing Stretching with Breathing. Stretch while you are slowly and deeply inhaling and exhaling.

Pair the Breath with Body Movements. This can be done by doing one body movement on the inhale and another on the exhale. For example, you can start with your arms at the sides with the inhale raise your arms over your head and lower your arms to the starting position on the exhale.

Pair the Breath with Intention. Pair a word or phrase that you want to bring in with the inhale and let your body relax on the exhale. Some examples of words/phrases are strength, calm, peace, I am loved, etc.

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Published by Leona Westra

A Registered Clinical Counsellor (RCC) based in Surrey, BC with specialized training in Chronic Pain, Trauma, Nervous System Dysregulation, and Grief.

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