We do it on average around 25,000 times a day, yet we don’t seem to give it a second thought. That’s right, breathing is something we have been doing subconsciously since the day we were born, but what we may not realise is the impact our breathing has on our physical, mental and emotional health.
Many of us take it for granted that there will always be another breath waiting for us to take, such is our confidence in our respiratory system. Whilst there is no need for us to second guess and worry over our next breath, we should at least acknowledge the role our breathing plays in our day-to-day life.
Breathing correctly can lower our stress levels, induce relaxation and ensure our body receives an adequate supply of oxygen. It can also help to alleviate pain, detoxify our body and regulate our weight. However, it’s not just our body and mind that benefit from breathing correctly. Motivational speaker Caroline Goyder suggests that breathing, in particular deep breathing, could hold the key to building confidence, especially in terms of public speaking.
Given that the way we breathe is so important to how our body and mind function, it is important to practise doing it the correct way. But first, here’s how to identify if you are doing it incorrectly: start by taking a deep breath in, if your chest and shoulders move upwards as you inhale, even just a little, then this is a sign that you are breathing through your chest.
Chest breathing is common, especially in adults. As babies we are born breathing through our diaphragm, taking deep breaths in through our stomach. Breathing this way is what doctors and medics consider to be the correct method. The trouble for many of us is that as we age, stress pushes our awareness of breathing through the diaphragm off course and we gradually become used to taking shorter, shallower breaths through the chest. This can contribute to heightened stress levels potentially increasing our chance of illness and anxiety as breathing through the chest triggers the flight or fight response.
To begin using your breathing to improve your health it is a good idea to start using your diaphragm – the mechanism for breathing that we are born using. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle that rests underneath the rib cage. To breathe through the diaphragm imagine a balloon in your stomach that inflates as you breathe in through your nose and deflates as you breathe out through your mouth. To get the most from this exercise exhale for slightly longer than you inhale and ensure your chest and shoulders remain still.
Breathing this way immediately triggers the parasympathetic nervous system into action – the part of our body responsible for inducing a sense of calm and relaxation. By adopting this method you calm your body, feel more at ease as well as ensuring your immune system gets a boost.
Practices such as yoga and meditation have long taught the importance of breathing through the diaphragm for relaxation benefits. Just 10 minutes of deep breathing through the diaphragm a day is enough to notice a considerable difference to your health and give you that meditative feeling, but it can also provide immediate relief throughout the day when needed. So next time you feel overwhelmed, stressed or even in pain, just breathe.
Author Bio – Jo is a freelance writer living in Leeds. She continues to develop her passion for writing, particularly on topics such as self-development, spirituality and meditation. Jo has a keen interest in the law of attraction and how to apply it in everyday life. Contact her at email@example.com or via twitter @mysmallmusings