Breathing is something we rarely think about. It was our first natural action at birth and it happens automatically: Air comes into our lungs and air comes out. But breathing can also have a substantial impact on our mental and physical health. And when we take control of our breathing technique, we can support our well-being.
When it comes to stress reduction, there are specific ways to activate the power of your breath that will help you trigger your relaxation response and calm your nervous system. On the other hand, irregular breathing habits can be detrimental to your health. Doing things like holding our breath or shallow breathing rates will keep us in that stress bubble, which is not good for anyone.
It may seem difficult at first to teach yourself new breathing habits, but it’s not impossible. Once you’re aware of your own breathing patterns, you can identify how to breathe the right way and use your breath to manage your health.
HOW BREATHING WRONG CAN AFFECT YOUR MIND AND BODY
Getting enough oxygen helps your body operate better in several areas. However, if you don’t breathe the right way, it can be difficult for your body to get the resources it needs to run efficient processes. Here are some ways breathing wrong can affect your mind and body, and what you can expect to see when you breathe correctly.
Anyone who suffers from sleep apnea will know that breathing wrong can seriously mess with your ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep studies have shown that those who take fewer breaths per minute get better quality sleep. This is because people who breathe properly have the right amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in their tissue cells. Breathing too quickly makes your muscles tense, which makes it more difficult for your body to get the correct oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. This creates an oxygen shortage in your body and causes you to continue to breathe quickly in an attempt to bring in more oxygen. Because your body’s oxygen levels already decrease when you sleep, having them drop even further can put your body on red alert. This can cause you to jolt awake, and make it difficult to get deep sleep.
Breathing too quickly is likely to make your body tense up. When you go into fight or flight mode, your body wants you to breathe faster in an attempt to bring in more oxygen and carbon dioxide quickly. When your body is caught in a state of breathing quickly, it puts your brain on high alert for danger and kicks your nervous system into overdrive.
It’s part of that two-way connection between mind and body.
Your breathing is tense, so your body will become tense and in turn, your mind is likely to be affected. This tension from breath and body can lead to general feelings of anxiety general feelings of anxiety and maybe even a panic attack if you’ve suffered from them before.
However, slowing your breathing down is an easy way to circumvent these anxious feelings.
STRAINS YOUR BRAIN
Twenty percent of the oxygen in your body goes to feeding your brain, so when your body is low on oxygen, it takes a heavy toll on your brain. Less oxygen means your energy and cognition will be lacking, and it’ll get harder for your brain to regulate body functions.
When your brain experiences an oxygen shortage, not only will your thinking be affected, but all of your internal systems could suffer as well. The brain controls everything that goes on in the body, any system, organ, or muscle is subject to problems when you don’t have the right amount of oxygen.
HOW TO BREATHE CORRECTLY
Breathing the wrong way can create some serious issues. How can you know if your breathing patterns are what your body needs, or if you need to change what you’re doing? Chances are, if you feel winded going up the stairs, get tired easily, or feel like you can’t focus, you aren’t breathing right. However, learning how to breathe the right way is easy and can be fixed in no time.
Here are the steps you need to take in order to help your body get the oxygen it needs.
Breathe through your nose
When you breathe through your mouth, your lungs have to deal with pollutants in the air. Nose breathing, on the other hand, helps filter out dust, bacteria, and other things that have no business being in your lungs.
Breathing deep helps your lungs work at full capacity, which makes you more likely to get the oxygen that you need. More oxygen means that your body is able to relax and your brain has the resources it needs to concentrate on the task at hand.
Breathing deeply also helps your mind realize that you aren’t in any danger, and makes it easier for you to relax. A good deep breath also helps the lymphatic system (which is intertwined with your immune system) release waste products.
Breathe from your diaphragm instead of your chest
When you’re breathing properly, you’ll feel it in your gut instead of your lungs. This is because diaphragm can also be known as your prime breathing muscles. When it contracts, it creates room in your chest cavity for more oxygen to come in.
If you’re doing it correctly, your stomach should be pushed out with each inhale and deflate with the exhale. It might feel weird and you might feel self-conscious as your belly bulges out. But diaphragmatic breathing is a sure-fire way to help you breathe deeper and healthier. Plus, using these core muscles means relieving the stress of chest breathing and pressure in your rib cage.
Aim to be relaxed
If your muscles are tense, it will interfere with your ability to breathe well. Stressed breathing makes it difficult for your body to get the right amount of oxygen, which can lead to some of the issues mentioned above. If you’re not used to breathing this way, take the time to relax your body. Make sure you release any tension that might be in your jaw, stomach, or hands.
Need help finding that relaxed place? Start with your environment. When you first start trying to change your breath, it can feel like you have too many things to track all at once. Until proper breathing becomes easier to practice, find a space where you’re unlikely to get interrupted. Put your phone, computer, and other devices away for a few minutes, and create a clean space to breathe in. You don’t have to be here long, but having a space that promotes relaxation will make it easier for you to breathe in a healthy way.
Find and keep a rhythm
The autonomic breathing process follows a rhythm. If you try to breathe out of a rhythm, it will be difficult to maintain and may end up creating stress instead of reducing it. Keeping to an easy-to-remember rhythm will help you integrate the other aspects of breathing properly, and make it easier for you to change your breathing pattern.
Focus on the exhale
Along with getting enough oxygen, you want to make sure your body is releasing CO2 and other toxins by releasing it with your exhale. Subpar exhales will only release 70 percent of the stale air in your lungs, keeping those toxins in your body. Making an effort to completely empty the air out of your lungs will increase the quality of your next inhale, and create a better overall breathing cycle.
Schedule a time for breathing every day
Our schedules are busy and many of us might feel like we don’t have time to try something new. However, if you incorporate a time for breathing practice into your schedule, you’re more likely to follow through and spend time working on breathing correctly. If morning works better for you, wake up a little earlier each day. Find a time that fits into your schedule and stick to it.
SPIRE CAN HELP YOU LEARN TO BREATHE AGAIN
Spire uses several sensors to track your breathing patterns. It measures the expansion and contraction of your chest and stomach, as well as breath speed to figure out how you are feeling.
If you are intimidated by all of the things you need to keep track of when it comes to learning to breathe again, Spire can take the stress out of changing your breathing. The Spire Stone’s breath tracking will help you recognize periods of tension and stress. If you’re stressed for more than a few minutes, your mobile app will walk you through a short breathing exercise to help relieve some of your tension.
It will also help you recognize periods of calm so you can recognize when you’re breathing correctly. Using Spire Stone to change your breathing can help you improve your mental focus, increase your quality of sleep, and avoid common digestive issues.
EMBRACE THE POWER OF YOUR BREATH
You’ve been breathing for your whole life, so you might be hesitant to re-teach yourself how to breathe. However, in just a few minutes a day, you can learn proper breathing techniques that can combat against health problems in so many ways. Your breath can reset your nervous system, decrease stress levels, boost your brain levels, even help with your blood pressure, and increase your overall oxygen levels.
Better breathing means better well-being: Your mind will function better, your stomach will calm, and you’ll sleep better. Sounds like a great deal, right?