Woman standing with eyes closed and lake in background

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Wellness advice often feels like a game of addition — how many things can you add to your routine without being buried under a pile of supplements, yoga mats, and leggings But no matter how much — or little — you’ve incorporated into your day, there’s one that you’re already doing every. single. second.

That would be breathing. And focusing on it a bit more might be the easiest way to instantly improve your overall well-being.

The benefits of focused, mindful breathing range from stress relief and increased stamina to weight loss. It’s also been found to lower levels of cortisol, which is the hormone that, when left unchecked, lowers our immunity and can alter our metabolism. One study even found that a single, breath-focused session can be powerful enough to rewrite genetic expression connected to immune function, energy metabolism, and insulin secretion. (Whoa, right?)

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Photo courtesy of tonl.co

So what, exactly, does better breathing look like? Here’s what you need to know:

It’s about the belly, baby

First of all, you want to make sure you’re breathing in deeply, from your diaphragm. According to an article in Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat, the best way to practice abdominal breathing” is by lying on your back on a flat surface, with one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly. As you breathe in (through your nose) and out (through your mouth), notice how your belly rises and falls. (And if it’s not, then that’s what you want to be working towards.)

Slow and steady wins the race

It’s not just how you breathe, but your pace that can have an impact. Slowing down your rhythm is another science-backed way to give your body — and mind — a boost. Researchers (Opens in a new window) have found that dropping to six breaths a minute is a good baseline, which means in for five seconds and out for five seconds, repeated for ideally 15 minutes a day. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t track their breathing on the reg (that would likely be most everyone), there are guided tracks that cue you when to breathe in and out — yup, you can even find them on Spotify.

Play mind games

If it sounds a lot like meditation, you’d be right. Which is one of the other upsides to establishing a breathwork practice: it’s one of the least-intimidating ways to get into mindfulness. If you’d like to combine your efforts, all you need to do is get into a comfortable, seated position, close your eyes, and just count your breaths all the way up to 10, before going back down to 1. (So the first breath is 1, the second is 2, the third is 3, and so forth.)

Insider tip

Meditation apps, like Headspace or Calm (ed note: some of our personal faves) lead beginners through this very routine, in case you’re not quite ready to fly solo. Before you know it, you’ve been chilling for 10 minutes letting your mind rest — instead stressing over the pile of work that’s waiting for you at the office. Now that’s something to help you breathe a sigh of relief.

Articles from The Natural should not be considered medical advice. If you have any questions about your health, please consult a medical professional.