The constant demands of loans, job pressure, and social expectation make us more stressed out than we’ve ever been. It’s no wonder that around 18% of the population struggles with anxiety. There’s too much pressure.
In the face of so much stress, many are looking for anything that will help them calm down and become more healthy in today’s world. One of the best ways to do exactly that is to regularly practice deep breathing. However, many people are reluctant to try it, because it seems too simple. How can something as natural as breathing make such a big difference?
Most people breathe from their chest instead of from their diaphragm. This results in shallow breathing that taxes the body and doesn’t give it the amount of oxygen necessary to keep everything running at optimal function.
Retraining yourself to breathe deeply can improve your health in a number of ways. Here are some of the aspects of your life that can be strengthened by learning to breathe properly.
Deep Breathing Calms Anxiety
When you’re feeling anxious, your breathing speeds up and become more shallow. Your brain thinks you’re not getting enough air, and may begin to hyperventilate. Feeling anxious makes your sympathetic nervous system kick in and prepare for potential danger.
Taking deep breaths signals your parasympathetic nervous system that it’s time to relax and calm down. This system works to restore the balance of calm and the function of your body’s systems. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, anxiety symptoms like rapid heart rate and shaking disappear, and make it possible for you to feel calm.
Deep breathing works to calm anxiety through a small group of neurons that is responsible for communicating respiratory information to other parts of your brain. These nerve cells connect breathing to states of being, such as anxiety, excitement, and relaxation. They are responsible for different types of breath, from shallow to gasping. It’s believed that this group of 3,000 cells is responsible for the calming effect seen during meditation.
Those who do not see immediate relief in anxiety after some deep breaths may have some genetic issues with the way these cells are set up. In some cases, these individuals may have to turn to medication to activate these cells properly. Other times, they only require more deep breaths than the average person in order to achieve the same result.
Deep Breathing is a Natural Pain Killer
When you’re stressed out or anxious, it’s easy to keep tension in various parts of your body. However, if you are tense for too long, it can lead to muscle aches all over. In fact, carrying around too much tension in the body is one of the most common causes of mild muscle pain.
There are many other reasons you could be experiencing pain. Other causes of body aches include too much physical activity, autoimmune disorder, thyroid issues, and suffering from the flu or the common cold.
Instead of turning to pain killer drugs, or just trying to push through it, there is another alternative. Deep breathing is a natural pain killer and can decrease the amount of pain you’re feeling. This is because breathing deeply releases endorphins in your brain. Endorphins have inflammation fighting capabilities, and can decrease the amount of pain felt from inflamed parts of the body.
Endorphins like dopamine are also responsible for helping you feel happy in relation to your actions. The autonomic nervous system and dopamine are connected, so when you breath deeply, you activate the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system, which in turn releases dopamine into your brain.
Deep Breathing Relieves Stress
From financial woes to health concerns and worries about the state of the nation, America is stressed out. 39% of adults report stress eating, and 31% report that stress negatively impacts their personal health.
Deep breathing is a great way to prevent stress from taking over your life. Instead of just binge watching the latest Netflix series, engaging in deep breathing is a great way to activate your body’s relaxation response.
Getting caught up in stressful thoughts signals to your body that there is a danger it needs to be ready for. This leads to anxious symptoms like shallow breathing and feeling on edge. However, reversing that by taking deep breaths stimulates your vagus nerve and slows your heart rate.
Breathing from your belly increases your body’s oxygen supply and tells the parasympathetic nervous system to kick in. This system takes you from the frenzied state of worry about money and health to a more focused, present state of your body.
Deep breathing is also a great way to calm the emotional turbulence that comes from getting caught up in the stresses of life. Focusing on your breath forces you to be present in your body, which takes your mind off of the dozens of things that stress you out from day to day.
Deep Breathing Promotes Better Blood Flow
Blood flow isn’t something we can consciously control. The brain manages many systems in the body without direct input, including the nervous system, digestion, and keeping your heart beating.
When you breathe deeply, your oxygen levels increase, which in turn helps the blood vessels in your body dilate. This better blood flow will put less strain on your cardiovascular system, and greatly reduces the chance of stroke and aneurysm.
Getting your breath down to 6 breaths a minute helps reduce blood pressure in hypertension sufferers and helps the body get blood flow back to a more normal level.
Deep Breathing Makes You More Mindful of Your Body
Most people are used to breathing from their chest. When you’re not thinking about it, it’s easier to take more shallow breaths.
Making an effort to switch to diaphragmatic breathing requires you to focus on your breath. This focus will bring parts of your body to your attention that you’ve probably never noticed before. You’ll become more aware of what’s going on in your body, which takes your mind away from the stresses of life.
As you are breathing, you’ll become more aware of the expansions and contractions of your abdomen. It might feel weird at first, but focusing on the experience can help you become more aware of your body and what is going on inside of it.
The demands of life make it difficult to take a moment and reflect on what is going on inside of us. Learning how to breathe deeply forces you to pause. Even just a single deep breath can make a small change in how you perceive what is going on.
Being more mindful of your body makes it easier to become more aware of the emotions inside of you, which makes it possible for you to deal with situations that were once too stressful to think about.
Deep Breathing Increases Energy
Your body wasn’t made to be on constant alert. Your systems were created to respond to occasional warning signs. But with the ever increasing demands of the economy and family life, your mind is receiving signals to be put on alert several times a day.
Being on guard all of the time is a huge drain to your systems. More than 40% of the population suffers from chronic illness, which is greater than it has been in previous years. This increase in illness is in large part due to the huge amount of stress people have to deal with on a regular basis. Being sick and stressed makes you tired all of the time.
However, deep breathing can help you get some of that energy back. Once you’re used to breathing from your diaphragm, it ends up taking less energy away from your body. In addition, deep breathing provides your body with more oxygen, which in turn provides more resources for your body to work with. More energy means you can think more clearly, and complete more of the things in life you’ve been putting off due to being too tired.
If you’re new to deep breathing, remembering to do it on a regular basis can be tricky. Especially if you are caught up in the moment, taking a step back to breath might be the last thing on your mind.
Spire can help you take a deep breath when life gets too challenging. The combined activity and breathing sensors keep track of the speed of your breath. By paying attention to the rise and fall of your torso, Spire can identify times of stress and panic. During those times, Spire will send a notification to your phone to take a deep breath and will offer a short breathing exercise for you to do.
This takes the pressure off of you, making it possible for you to enjoy the benefits of deep breathing without giving you one more thing to put on your to do list.