Simple Breathing Exercises to Improve Concentration
Breathing is something that we all do on a regular basis without even thinking about it. Every day, we breathe in and out approximately 22,000 times – that’s over 8 million breaths every year! The truth is, most of us don’t take full advantage of the power of our breath. We can all take control of our breath and maximise its benefits by using simple breathing exercises in our daily routines. You can even use breathing for concentration, so we’ve outlined some breathing techniques for focus that you and your family can use every day.
Why should children use simple breathing exercises?
One of the key roles, and challenges, that parents and educators face is teaching children to identify and manage their emotions. Research has shown that children who can regulate their emotions are much happier and more successful in future life. In fact, simple breathing exercises have a range of benefits:
- Relaxed muscles
- Reduced anxiety and overwhelm
- Increased energy levels
- Decreased stress levels
When you use deep breathing for focus, you increase the airflow into your body. So, when you use breathing for concentration, you allow more oxygen to enter your bloodstream. In response to this increase, the sympathetic nervous system in your brain – which triggers feelings of anxiety – becomes quieter. This leads to increased feelings of calm and relaxation which can be beneficial to aid revision, or before an exam.
However, if you ask someone to start taking deep breaths in the middle of a stressful situation, the likelihood is they won’t know how to do this properly and they will panic even more and lose focus rather than gain it. This is why it’s critical to share simple breathing exercises with your children as part of their daily routine. You should aim to equip them with the correct deep breathing tools so that they can use them whenever they need to.
One of the most effective ways that your children can use their breathing for concentration is through diaphragmatic breathing. This technique requires careful timing and lots of thinking, so is best suited to teenagers.
This five-minute breathing exercise for focus is most effective if your child is sitting down or lying on their back. This simple breathing exercise focuses on channelling the breath into the stomach.
To begin, your child should have their feet roughly hip-width apart and should let their breath flow deep into their stomach. Be careful that they don’t force this. Deep breathing should always be as calm and natural as possible.
Next, encourage your child to focus on breathing in through their nose and exhaling through their mouth. They should practise this several times, ensuring that when they inhale, they’re directing their breath into their stomach. It can be helpful for them to place their hand on their stomach to feel this.
The next step is to introduce some loose timing. When your child inhales through their nose, they should count steadily from one to five whilst they’re breathing in. This practice should be repeated for exhaling too. Don’t worry if they can’t make it to five – this will come with practice.
This exercise should be completed for three-five minutes. For the best results, this technique should be completed daily. This will make it easier for your child to put this into action if they need to refocus and concentrate.
Don’t forget to exhale!
As mentioned above, feelings of anxiety and distraction are associated with the sympathetic nervous system in your brain. When you inhale, this is linked to the sympathetic nervous system. Exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system. Our parasympathetic nervous system influences our feelings of relaxation and calmness, which is why exhaling is a critical element of deep breathing for stress relief.
Before an important exam, your child may feel anxious, and would benefit from deep breathing. However, when we start to feel anxious, it’s easy to breathe in too much. If you take too many deep breaths in quick succession, you will trigger the sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to hyperventilation and panic attacks. So it’s important for your child to balance their inhaling and exhaling when they’re using breathing for concentration.
The first thing to remember during simple breathing exercises is that you should always start with a deep exhale. If your child is looking to begin their breathing technique for focus, encourage them to push all of the air from their lungs before they take their first deep breath. This will prevent them from taking lots of deep breaths in quick succession.
Next, encourage your child to spend longer on their exhalation than their inhalation. Suggest that they inhale for four seconds before making their exhale last for six seconds. This will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, helping them to relieve some of their anxious thoughts.
This exercise is most effective when it is maintained for two-five minutes and performed in the position that is most comfortable for your child.
Daily Breath Focus
Introducing simple breathing exercises into your child’s daily routine can be hugely beneficial for their energy levels, which leads to improved concentration.
To begin, your child should identify the position they are most comfortable in. This may be sitting down or lying on their back. Ensure they are in a quiet location. Once they are comfortable, guide your child to breathe normally.
You are then ready to follow the breath focus process:
- First, your child should notice how it feels when they’re breathing normally. Encourage them to identify any areas of their body which feel naturally tense or stiff.
- Tell them to take a slow, deep breath through their nose. As they do so, mention that they should feel a rise in their stomach and upper body.
- They should then exhale through the mouth. If it helps, they can sigh as they exhale.
- Your child should repeat this pattern of inhaling and exhaling for a few minutes. Ensure that they are paying careful attention to the rise and fall of their stomach.
- Once the above routine has been completed several times, you should introduce some words during exhalation. Guide your child to choose a word that they will focus on during exhalation. Words like ‘calm’ and ‘safe’ can be effective.
- During the next exhale, your child should end their exhale by saying their focus word aloud.
- Encourage your child to imagine that their inhale is a gentle wave that is washing over them, whilst their exhale is carrying negative energy and thoughts away from their body and mind.
This exercise should take about 20 minutes. For maximum benefit, your child should repeat this exercise every day. If they have a specific time of day that induces anxiety, they should use this breathing exercise in advance.
If you’re looking for more resources related to deep breathing for your children, keep an eye on The Global Classroom website for details of our upcoming event – Deep Breath. Our next classroom will focus on the importance of breathing and will teach our global students the importance of their breath and how they can manage it.
While you wait for our next class to launch, you can watch our range of previous classes for free right now. From World Environment Day to Global Inspiration, our classrooms have something to inspire every child.