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Connection Between the Limbic System and Diaphragmatic Breathing

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There is a reason why we utilize the phrase “just breathe” to initiate calmness to ourselves and the people around us. We ask our children to take a deep breath during a tantrum, and we take yoga classes based solely on deep breathing.

We use our breath to get into a meditative state, circulate oxygen to our internal organs, and naturally boost energy. Without question, there is a firm connection between our mind and breath, and diaphragmatic breathing has a significant effect on the limbic system’s performance state.

Understanding the Limbic System

The Limbic System is incredibly complex. Very basically, it’s a set of structures in the brain that deals with memory and emotion. As human beings, we deal with up to 60,000 thoughts that run through our minds each day.

Most of those thoughts are on repeat, but they have a notable effect on our emotions. When emotions run high, our limbic system is affected negatively, impairing our ability to see our reality in a positive light.

Limbic System Impairment is a neurological loop of negative feedback. This feedback is automatic and completely unconscious. It pulls up memories, places, and events that spur a physical response from the body, often referred to as “fight or flight.”

When the limbic system runs on auto-pilot, feelings of anxiety, depression, and unrest can quickly take over. Not only does Limbic System Impairment have the ability to hi-jack our health by initiating a constant stress response, but it’s forcing us to live in the past instead of the present.

The Benefits of Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing or belly breathing, is a breathing method that contracts the diaphragm, allowing you to breathe deeply into the belly instead of shallowly into the chest. The gift of breath is automatic, but it can completely alter how you feel when you focus on it.

Diaphragmatic breathing has a wide variety of benefits. Since it enables more airflow into the body, it can calm nerves and fight off feelings of displacement and disorientation. Deep breathing is the center of every meditation practice, which is proven to fight depression, anxiety, insomnia, even irritable bowel syndrome.

Additional benefits of diaphragmatic breathing include:

  • Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
  • Improves core muscle strength
  • Helps the body to relax, and assists with symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Enhances the body’s ability to handle intense exertion or exercise
  • Slows breathing rate to expend less energy

As you can see, diaphragmatic breathing benefits the body both physically and emotionally. That’s where the limbic system comes in.

The Limbic System-Diaphragmatic Breathing Connection

When you can control your emotions and calm your nervous system by merely breathing, it can cause an incredibly soothing effect on the brain, namely, the limbic system. Soothing the limbic system means slowing the autopilot cycle of negative thoughts that result in undesirable emotions.

The connection between the limbic system and diaphragmatic breathing becomes apparent when you shift your focus to deep breathing during a stressful event. Whether you’re stuck in traffic or experiencing something much greater than that, belly breathing will reset your nervous system, slow your train of thought, and leave you feeling clear-minded.

Control Your Stress Response by Utilizing Your Breath

The breath is a crucial component of the body’s stress response. When your anxious, your breathing is fast and shallow. If you’re feeling calm, your breath will come in and flow out slowly, allowing your heart to beat at its natural pace, encouraging a feeling of peace.

Since the limbic system loves to send out those stress signals in the form of dredged up unfavorable memories and the negative emotions associated with them, the breath can combat that automatic, negative response system. You’ll often hear that process referred to as “finding your center.”

The Biology Behind the Connection

The autonomic nervous system has two parts; the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. While the sympathetic controls the fight-or-flight response, the parasympathetic controls the rest and relax response.

The two parts of the autonomic nervous system cannot turn on at the same time. If you activate one side, whether it be on purpose or automatic, the other side becomes suppressed.

By breathing deeply, you allow more carbon dioxide to enter your bloodstream. The carbon dioxide presence quiets down the brain’s parts that handle your stress and anxiety response, such as the amygdala, which is located in the limbic system.

A Definite Mind-Body Relationship

For so long, medical professionals in various fields of study believed there to be little to no relationship between the mind and body. Of course, we know now that there is a connection, and the limbic system’s response based solely on diaphragmatic breathing attests to that.

Breathing deeply is a highly effective way to re-center your mind and body, successfully changing your disposition and thinking. If you utilize it daily, you’ll see massive changes that arise when it comes to your mental, physical, and emotional health.

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