Young children can learn and use deep breathing techniques to strengthen their mind/body connection and relax, according to researchers from the Mayo Clinic.

Controlled breathing, also referred to as belly or abdominal breathing, is a deep, slow inhalation that expands the diaphragm downward and draws air deep into the lungs, pushing the belly out as the lungs fill up. This is followed by a long controlled exhale as the diaphragm muscles relax and air flows out. This specific breathing increases the oxygen supply to the brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. It shifts the individual from the “fight or flight” instinct on high alert to a state where the heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers, and pain decreases.

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For children, researchers add that deep breathing can become a part of a bedtime routine to encourage calmness and relaxation. Incorporating images and phrases can enhance the deep breathing. It may also hep relieve frequent headache pain or stomachaches. The following is recommended:

  • Find a comfortable position. If possible, lie down on a flat surface.
  • Place a hand on your belly or an object, such as a stuffed animal or even a book. Your hand/object should rise as you take a big breath and your hand should fall as you let the air out slowly over a period of several seconds.
  • Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Let your shoulders and neck relax with the movement in your abdomen. Repeat 15–20 times.
  • Consider adding a short phrase in your mind with the breathing: “I am” on the inhalation, “relaxed” on the exhalation. You could also slowly count to four on each breath.

For more information visit MayoClinic.org.