Breathing your way to better health

Category: Article or Blog Published: Wednesday, 28 March 2018 Written by Sarah PJ White

Breathing, it’s something we all naturally take for granted as something we automatically do. And why shouldn’t we? After all, we take as many as 20,000 breaths in an average day!

However, with so many stresses in our lives and pressures on our time, more and more people are suffering from stress, anxiety and depression – and this is impacting how we breathe. Over time, constantly being on edge (or in fight or flight response) changes our breathing, from relaxed and slow to stressed and fast – and this can lead to a drop in our health and wellbeing. Shallow breathing can result in symptoms such as increased migraines, IBS pain, anxiety and stress, and if you suffer from asthma – an increase in attacks.

Stress, breathing and the work computer

There’s also evidence to suggest that, those who work on computers and those in busy office environments, tend to hold their breath whilst working (referred to as screen apnoea), leading us to become even more stressed and anxious.

Children naturally breathe better

Children and babies naturally breathe from their abdomen, unfortunately, as we get older, stress takes over and we shallow breathe, taking in short sharp breaths from our chest and only using the top third of our lungs. In effect, breathing in this way means you’re just on the edge of hyperventilating!

The result of bad breathing

Breathing poorly or shallowly, can result in an increase in feelings of depression, anxiety and insomnia. But it also means you have an incorrect balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your system – and this can affect your ability to fight off ailments and tiredness. Your body, brain, vital organs and skin simply won’t be getting enough nutrients to maintain optimum health.

So how can you improve your breathing and get back onto calmer ground?

Controlled breathing for better health

Controlled breathing, or taking slow, deep, consistent breaths, involves breathing from the abdomen. This type of breathing activates the body’s relaxation response, causing you to relax, unwind and take yourself off high-alert. Breathing in this relaxed fashion can also help boost your immune system and lead to a healthier heart and longer life.

Benefits include more oxygen being carried around your body, your immune system is better equipped to fight ailments and anxiety, stress and depression levels lessen.

How to breathe properly

Take ten minutes, several times a day, to practice better breathing techniques. You need to be using your diaphragm, so place your left hand on your upper chest and your right hand on your abdomen, in the gap between your ribcage.

When you breathe, your right hand should move up and down – your left hand shouldn’t be moving – otherwise you’re not using your diaphragm enough.

Work on changing your breathing to this correct position over the course of the next few days.

Next, you want to actually slow your breathing down, so your whole body can relax. Look to be completing 8 to10 ‘cycles’ a minute – a cycle is one in-breath and one out-breath.

By focusing just ten minutes at a time on your breathing, you’ll be relaxing your entire body and taking yourself off high-alert – and onto better health!

 

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