Two weeks into 2021, the stress levels already have us feeling like it's 2020 part two. If you're looking to improve your mental health in the new year, TikTok has a few useful tips worth trying out. Dr. Julie Smith, a British clinical psychologist and blogger, shared a TikTok video demonstrating a five-finger breathing exercise that helps reduce anxiety and relieve stress. "Slowing down your breathing will help to calm the body," she captioned the video. "Focusing on something in the present will help to calm your mind."
The video shows Dr. Smith sitting cross-legged on the floor and holding one hand out in front of her with her palm facing away from her body. In a slow and steady rhythm, she traces her fingers with the index finger on her opposite hand, breathing in as she traces her finger up and breathing out as she traces it down. In total, the exercise only takes about 30 seconds, depending on how quickly you get through it, but Dr. Smith suggests repeating it until you feel a noticeable sense of calm or relief.
Curious about whether the trick actually works, I sat down intending to cycle through the exercise two or three times just to test it out. Five full minutes later, I found myself still at it and breathing more calmly than I had all day. Once I stopped, I noticed my body felt lighter and I felt more relaxed overall. Most of all, it helped me get away from the world around me for a second and focus on getting my body and my mind in the same rhythm, similar to meditating for a few minutes. For an exercise that only takes a few seconds, I was definitely surprised by how effective it turned out to be. Watch Dr. Smith's full video above to try the five-finger breathing exercise for yourself and read up on a few more breathing techniques for anxiety.