August 12, 2021, Publisher: Breath Hub
Effects of the pandemic, anxiety brought on by a bleak future, academic difficulties and emotional ups and downs... Today's youth faces more stress than ever before. In honour of International Youth Day on August 12th, we are looking at how breathing exercises can improve the lives of teens and young people.
More and more educators rely on the miracle of mindfulness and turn to breathing exercises to help students cope with stress, encourage kindness, and increase their learning capacity. A study conducted in 2015 by psychologist Dr Kimberly Schonert-Reichl shows that a group of students who practised mindfulness and breathing exercises over 12 weeks improved significantly in many areas. The study showed that the students' stress hormone (cortisol) levels dropped while their social behaviour skills and even their math grades improved. Compared to students who followed the standard curriculum, those who participated in mindfulness and breathwork sessions were better at attentiveness, memory, emotional balance, positivity, and empathy.
Breathing, mindfulness and meditation exercises offer techniques that help teens and young people remain calmer, emotionally balanced and cope more easily with the challenges in their lives. An increase in awareness leads to improved focus, reduced anxiety, and better relationships with those around them. Daily breathing exercises also strengthen some basic skills such as flexibility and resilience as well as self-soothing. Here are the most prominent seven benefits of breathwork for young people.
Conscious breathing is one of the fastest and easiest ways of balancing the nervous system, relaxing the mind and body. Slowing down the breathing rate and lengthening the exhalations stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Young people can effectively benefit from relaxing breathing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety, especially before exams.
Exercises that help young people breathe better aid in balancing intense emotions. Studies show that learning to recognize and manage negative emotions is beneficial in improving mood and brain development. Deep and slow breathing is an effective way to deal with frustration, hurt, fear and anger. This type of breathing also helps the production of feel-good hormones and creates emotional balance.
According to the 2019 report by the Centre for Education Policy Research at Harvard University, mindfulness and breathing exercises are effective ways to cope with stress. The report shows that mindful breathing methods significantly decrease stress levels. In addition, breathing helps stay centred and balanced, improve resilience, and make it easier to manage stress.
A simple breathing exercise can work wonders, especially in cases where you need to focus your attention. Breathwork is a great tool to utilize for increased concentration while studying for an exam or doing homework. Regular breathing exercises improve listening skills and help manage symptoms of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which impairs concentration.
Breathwork opens up space for our racing minds to relax and slow down. Focusing on our breathing, body and sensations instead of our crowded mind is quite a useful trick to grow our self-awareness. Young people who manage to stay centred and get to know themselves better develop self-awareness, strengthen their decision-making ability, improve their insight and understanding.
Breathwork offers valuable techniques for resilience when dealing with extreme emotions and challenging situations. Unhealthy coping mechanisms such as addictions or self-harm is rarer in young people who embrace mindfulness and practise breathing exercises.
A study on anxiety conducted by the Stanford University School of Medicine shows that chronic stress affects the brain structure of children and young people, leading to long-term mood disorders, behavioural problems and difficulty concentrating. It is possible to overcome chronic anxiety by practising regular breathwork. Young people who learn to calm themselves by practising breathing techniques in the face of challenging situations can deal with anxiety attacks and prevent the damage that chronic anxiety can lead to.