diaphragmatic breathing vs. chest breathing, what’s the difference?

Take a deep breath in. Now let it out. You probably notice a difference in how you feel.

 

Breathing is something we do instinctually, but the simple act of inhaling in and out has a huge impact on our health. It is a powerful tool to decrease stress, increase energy, and promote total balance in your body.

 

However, most of us don’t think about how we breathe. Today, we will dive into the ways deep diaphragmatic breathing can wellness in children and adults.

Diaphragmatic Breathing V. Chest Breathing: What’s the Difference?

You may not realize it, but there are two ways in which we breathe — either with your chest or diaphragm.

 

Diaphragmatic Breathing

First, what’s a diaphragm? Your diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle at the base of your lungs that is used most for breathing.

 

When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and moves downward. And when you exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and moves upward.

 

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, causes your stomach to expand as you inhale — and this breath is deeper. Taking deep breaths ensures that the lungs fill more efficiently.

 

Chest Breathing

Most people have a habit of breathing with their chest. For example, restrictive clothing, poor posture, and weak abdominal muscles contribute to chest breathing.

 

Chest breathing isn’t as efficient as diaphragmatic breathing. This is because chest breathing tends to be shallower — resulting in less oxygen transfer.

 

Also, rapid chest breathing activates the sympathetic nervous system, also called your ‘fight or flight system. Activation of this system increases your heart rate, which can lead to high blood pressure and anxiety.

Why Should You Switch to Diaphramic Breathing?

The simple act of belly breathing can affect your well-being. Here are a few of the ways:

 

Improved Cognitive Function

Need help concentrating? Try deep breathing exercises.

 

A 2017 study found that healthy adults who completed 20 sessions of deep breathing exercises over 8 weeks experienced an improvement in their attention span.

 

Better Sleep and Better Mood

Deep breathing throughout the day is proven to help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

 

How? Research shows that diaphragmatic breathing regulates your nervous system and reduces cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.

 

With stress relief, you’re able to sleep peacefully. And a good night’s sleep is known to help you obtain optimal health.

 

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercise

The great thing about diaphragmatic breathing is that it’s easy, and you can do it anywhere, anytime — even while reading this article.

 

Here’s how to do it:

 

  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting the air fill your lungs. The hand on your chest should remain still, while the hand on your belly should rise.
  • As you exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles. The hand on your belly should move down to its original position.

 

You can do this exercise while lying or sitting. Feel free to do it as many times a day as you need.

 

Diaphragmatic Breathing and Stress Relief in Children

Deep belly breathing isn’t only for adults, children can also benefit from deep breathing exercises.

 

By teaching children diaphragmatic breathing, you give them a valuable tool to help them regulate their emotions. It’s also helpful for children who struggle with focusing.

 

As mentioned earlier, deep breathing exercises balance the autonomic nervous system. Therefore, children with ADHD or other neurodivergent conditions can benefit from belly breathing.

 

When teaching a child belly breathing for the first time, it helps to have them lie on their back.

 

And instead of hands, you can place an object, like a toy or book, on their belly and then make the object go up and down as they breathe.

 

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