How Do You Know You're Breathing Deeply?
Simple Health Value breathing is a deep, cleansing activity. On a daily basis, most of us breathe shallowly, using only a small percentage of our lung capacity and getting just part of the oxygen our bodies require. It's kind of like holding your breath all day long.
You see, breathing may be automatic, but that doesn't mean it's unchanging. If you lead a busy, demanding life, you may spend a lot of time breathing shallowly while you're under stress. That kind of breathing can become habitual. Even when you're not under stress, you may still breathe as if you are, unless you take conscious control of the process. That's what I'm recommending to you.
The key idea here is to purposely slow down and think about the fact that you need to breathe to take in more oxygen. It's about remembering that every single time you take a breath, you're conducting a health-giving activity.
More than any other Simple Health Value, breathing is about training your mind to think in a different way, then acting on that training. It's about making purposeful, optimal breathing a daily habit.
Either way, the connection is clear: If you generally don't get stressed-out, you're probably breathing deeply and often enough to shed the anxiety. On the flip side, if you constantly have a hard time dealing with stress, you're probably breathing too shallowly and denying your body the nutritious oxygen it needs to handle tough situations.
Every cell in your body needs oxygen. The reason we each have a heart and cardiovascular system is to deliver oxygen to our cells, which use it as a catalyst for the chemical reactions that turn food into energy. Oxygen is life.
So while other systems of the body are important, they all depend on oxygen. Eating fresh food and water, getting plenty of sleep and rest, and moving your body every day will only have a beneficial impact on your health if you're breathing. Breath is the foundation of life.
Research done at Baylor University shows that lack of oxygen is a major cause of heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Simple deep breathing daily along with moderate activity can reverse the effects of these lifestyles-related diseases. Another important fact to note is that the brain requires more oxygen than any other organ. If it doesn't get enough, the result is mental sluggishness, negative thoughts, depression, and eventually, vision and hearing decline.
What's one of the best reasons to set aside five minutes every day to breathe deeply? Simply put, it's your body's best immediate defense against stress. Even if you're in the middle of a tense situation, you can develop the awareness to know when your breathing is fast and shallow. And you can immediately start taking long, slow, deep breaths and actually fool your body into thinking the stress has passed.
When you take even a single hearty breath, your body gets the signal to quit releasing adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones. Your heart rate and blood pressure can even drop in response. That's right. One deep breath can stop the stress response, while multiple deep breaths can reverse its effects.
Breathing is the one Simple Health Value that doesn't require another object, like food or any time that must be devoted to it alone, like sleeping. You already breathe all the time. Getting the real benefits just means changing how you do it.
My recommendation is as simple as this: First, take a few minutes a day to breathe deeply and second, use simple, optimal breathing whenever you feel stressed. That's when your body needs it most.
Taking five or ten deep breaths in a row, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, actually affects your body biochemically, leading to a relaxing, calming effect that goes beyond a simple break in your day.
Devote five minutes a day to deep breathing. Block out a few minutes every day, perhaps at work where you may get the most stressed, to do a deep-breathing exercise. You might need to slip away to a quiet spot and breathe with your eyes closed. Or perhaps you can just continue working at your computer, breathing deeply while you do. Either way, you'll feel immediate benefits. Start with just five or ten deep breaths in a row, then expand to five minutes a day. If it helps, set a specific time each day as your "breathing break."
Integrate activities that facilitate movement and breathing such as yoga or stretching. Try techniques like visualization or biofeedback along with your breathing. Breathe deeply during slow- or moderate-paced walking. This enables you to make deep breathing an automatic addition to your lifestyle.