Deep Breathing Should Be on Everyone’s To-DO List!
Recently I was early for a meeting and settled at a window seat with a cup of tea. In between sips, I filled my belly with deep, slow breaths and let them out equally as slowly. I love the feeling of calmness this gives me. It also clears my head for focused work.
The door opened and blew in branding expert Liz Goodgold. I had hired her for advice because she crackles with energy and ideas. If we were in a music video, we would be surrounded by tornadoes and our hair would be blowing wildly (although stylishly).
“Breathe,” I said. A few minutes later, we were looking at a post I’d written in which I advised the same thing.
“I’ve been breathing my whole life,” she wisecracked. “Why tell anyone to breathe? We know how to do it.”
True. We all know how to breathe. But that doesn’t mean we do it well.
In an article in Men’s Journal, wellness expert Don Campbell, champion of the “conscious breathing” movement, put it this way: “We all come into the world with the ability to take full, unencumbered breaths, but as we get older we forget how to breathe properly.”
Yoga and Pilates instructor Emma Johnson has more than 30 years’ experience teaching. One of the most common problems she sees is that that most people—women especially—don’t breathe deeply enough. They’re too accustomed to trying to stick their stomachs in. But you can’t do the poses effectively if your breath is shallow.
When we’re stressed, we breathe less deeply. Because we’re breathing less deeply, our bodies and emotions increase in stress. Shallow breathing has negative effects on our immune system, blood pressure, digestion, and more.
Conversely, slow, deep breathing—both in and out—has positive effects on our health:
- Lowers anxiety
- Reduces depression
- Lowers blood pressure
- Relaxes muscles
- Increases energy
- Decreases stress
- Improves focus
The benefits of deep breathing are backed by hard science. A 2016 study shows a direct “tie between breathing itself and changes in emotional state and arousal that we had never looked at before,” according to co-author Jack Feldman, a professor of neurology at UCLA.
We take around 20,000 breaths a day. So when I suggest that you “breathe,” I’m not recommending that you try to cram in 20,001.
What I’m really saying is, “Breathe DEEPLY.” Indeed, you may not need as many breaths if you’re following a healthier pattern.
TRY THESE 5 TIPS TO SUPERCHARGE YOUR BREATHING:
- FILL your belly with air. To practice, place one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. Breathe in deeply while pushing your stomach OUT as far as you can. The hand on your stomach should move, while the one on your chest should remain still. Keep your chest and shoulders relaxed.
- Exhale slowly for as many counts as you inhaled. If you don’t exhale completely, excess carbon dioxide may remain in your lungs. This triggers the nervous system to ask for more oxygen. But because the lungs are still partially filled with carbon dioxide, you can’t get as much oxygen this time.
- Sit up straight. You’ll get more air in. Hunching your shoulders compresses the diaphragm, restricting input. Plus, it increases tension in your neck and shoulders.
- Don’t hold your breath during exercise. Many people unconsciously hold their breath during a workout, raising blood pressure. Let your breath help you with the workout.
- Take deep breathing breaks. Start and end your day with five minutes of conscious deep breathing. This will energize you for the day, and oddly enough, help relax you as well. If you have meetings or other stressors coming up, set aside time for a deep breathing break before them.
Thich Nhat Han puts it this way:
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
My friends, take a deep breath, let it go, and feel better.
~Use this link to sign up for tips on bringing Practical Mindfulness–and happiness–into your life.
Marcy McDonald changes lives. Her unique neuroscience-based program uses UnBlocks™ to crack the code on your emotional hard wiring so you can conquer the emotional jungle and live more happily–starting today.