Benefits of Deep Breathing for Learning and Regulation
Months ago, we began implementing practice-wide introductory activities with all of our clients at the start of every session. While mindfulness practices have always been a pillar of our therapy style at Circles of Communication, we felt that consistent practice-wide “warm ups” would offer flexible predictability (this seems like an oxymoron, but the idea of an opening routine with activities that vary weekly is just that: predictable AND flexible!) before beginning direct therapy. We chose a variety of activities that offer a balance of mindful reflection, humor, and fun: a round of deep breathing, attempting a mindful minute of silence and stillness, stating an affirmation, and attempting to solve the joke of the week.
Each week, we write the weekly warm ups on the board, including the “Peacemaker of the Week” (more on Peacemaker stuffed animals in another newsletter- for now, check out genmindful.com), affirmation of the week, activity idea, and joke of the week. The accompanying “activity ideas” further emphasize the lessons of the warm-ups, as well as offer clients opportunities to participate in related activities for the remainder of their sessions in a way that suits their individual needs and goals.
Over the next few months, this blog will delve into each warm-up activity, it’s purpose, it’s benefits for your child, and ideas for carrying each practice over in your homes. Up first: deep breathing!
There’s a reason people default to the phrase, “take a deep breath,” when folks around them start to become upset. Yes, we all know how to breathe, it’s a life-sustaining function. Deep breathing, on the other hand, is something we should all take the time to learn and truly practice. “Deep breathing” refers to using the muscles of the diaphragm to produce slow, controlled breaths that saturate more of the surface area of the lungs with oxygen than a normal, life-sustaining breath. This is often called “belly breathing.” Research supports the practice of deep breathing to achieve numerous benefits, including stress-reduction, improved executive functioning, pain relief, improved clarity and loudness of speech, increased energy, and more! As therapy providers in a helping profession, it’s one of the most-used tools in our self-care toolkits. We love sharing the benefits of deep breathing with our clients!
From a learning-oriented perspective, utilizing deep breathing as a practice at the start of each session helps our clients gain all of these benefits that contribute to learning readiness. Just as it’s difficult for us as adults to take in new information, follow directions, process emotions, and more when we’re feeling off, it’s especially difficult for children and young adults who may lack an understanding of their regulatory needs and what helps them feel prepared for learning tasks. We love incorporating “fun” breaths into the beginning of our sessions to promote regulation and increased bandwidth for learning, and it offers your child a creative opportunity to think of a type of breath that calls to them. We’ve had clients dream up various 'animal' breaths, 'weather' breaths, 'color' breaths, and more.
Are you ready to implement deep breathing and its benefits in your home? One method is by simply modeling deep breathing practices in front of your child. This is a low effort way to incorporate the practice into your family’s daily routine, and you’ll obtain all the benefits we’ve discussed above. When it feels appropriate, you can also pair these modeled deep breaths with a short narration of how you’re feeling before and after taking the deep breath. If you want a slightly more involved idea, challenge your child to think of a breath, then pair it with a silly motor movement. For example, if your child chooses a bear breath, inhale deeply through the nose, then exhale through the mouth while holding your hands outstretched like bear paws. From there, you can pair the bear breaths with a bear yoga pose or themed craft afterwards. Make it fun and engaging in a way that feels doable for you!
Deep breathing a few times per day is a simple way to help your child relax, self-regulate, prepare for and complete a challenging task, make their speech louder and clearer, and promote learning readiness.