Monday, 25 July 2016

Breathe for Confidence

Breath is such an everyday action that we all take for granted.  Yet being more aware of our breath can have a huge impact on how we present ourselves, how we feel giving presentations
and the impact we have on others. 

The simple act of focussing on our breath for a couple of minutes calms us right down.  Try it.  Close or lower your eyes and just observe your breath as it enters and leaves your body.  To keep your focus, mentally recite breathing in as you inhale and breathing out as you exhale.  And that’s all.  You aren’t trying to slow down your breath, but this may happen naturally as you observe yourself breathing in and breathing out. 

Now notice how you feel.  Words people often use in feedback are that they are feeling calmer, more relaxed, more peaceful.  What’s happening on a physical level is that as our breath slows and gets deeper, more oxygen gets to our blood flow which increases, our heart rate slows down, our nervous system relaxes and our muscle tension lessens.  As our breathing slows and deepens we are creating the optimum conditions for our voice to be at its best.  Breath coming from our stomach produces a more resonant sound that can be projected easily and pleasantly. 

Contrast this to how we feel when we are angry or nervous.  We clench and tense our muscles, we close in on ourselves, and our breathing quickens and becomes more shallow resulting in a sound produced in the throat that’s not so firm and can even have tremors or shakes.  So taking the time to breathe in a more self aware way for a few moments before we present something, and then to continue this pace of breathing as we present, makes us feel calm and sound calm.  Because we’re breathing deeper we don't have to keep catching our breath.  When we do breathe, we pause slightly before continuing which stops us gabbling and enables our audience to catch up. And to maximise the flow of oxygen, we add posture to the mix.  Instead of a closing in posture, associated with nervousness or anger, we open out, our shoulders slightly back, our spine straight but not rigid, probably standing, and this allows the breath to flow through the nose and mouth and down to the chest and stomach in an unrestricted way, again making us feel and look confident. 

So breath is the vehicle for our voice physically but also affects how we feel delivering our message and how we are perceived as we speak.  Practicing observing our breath sitting down, then adding posture as we stand and watch our breath, is an easy and accessible way to start nurturing our confidence as a speaker. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about this, or if you have experience of working with your breath to change your mindset or your voice. 

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