Taking a deep breath helps us calm our nerves, reduce stress and relieve anxiety. Breathing properly to live better is the cornerstone of physical and mental well-being. It can restore our attention in the midst of all the hurry and pressure we live with. At the same time, it is equally interesting how this type of breathing allows us to better connect with ourselves and our basic needs…
There are many cultures that see the method of breathing as more than just – apparently – a mandatory action that keeps us alive and hardly needs attention. Many of us form part of that hyperventilizing world that suddenly feels the need to practice yoga, consciousness, or tai chi, becoming aware that breathing is more than just breathing in and out.
In that rhythmic method of expansion and contraction, breathing also describes the constant duality of life, such as day and night, waking and sleeping, serenity and storm, spring and winter… It is a cycle with order and time, internal music , and incredible benefits when done right.
Most of us breathe quickly and superficially, leaving the capacity of our lungs untapped as they expand hardly at all. Usually we breathe 17 or 18 times a minute. However, when we suffer from anxiety or stress, breathing becomes more frequent and can reach up to 30 breaths per minute. It’s a risk. It’s like living with the sword of Damocles on your head, creating an increasing imbalance that affects blood pressure, the immune system, and muscles, including the mind.
Equally all, something as simple as “deep breathing” and doing it in a controlled way, generates a body-wide benefit by balancing multiple functions and providing a pathway to the many negative emotions that plague us from day to day.
So what if we learned to breathe properly to live better?
Deep, slow and thoughtful breathing
There is one very interesting fact that deserves the least attention: breathing is one of the few bodily functions we do voluntarily as well as unintentionally. It’s a great opportunity to take control of our bodies and improve our quality of life – if we practice it the smart way.
Consider how voluntary and conscious breathing can affect how we breathe when we breathe automatically. In this way, we improve our blood pressure, heart rate, blood circulation, digestion, and many other bodily functions.
It is very possible that one of our readers is now wondering if there is any scientific evidence that breathing is indeed as positive and beneficial as Eastern cultures claim. There is published evidence in the scientific journal Harvard Health that slow breathing is most beneficial to our bodies.
When we breathe deeply, but most of all slowly, we get oxygen that actually reaches our cells and maintains the level of carbon dioxide in the blood. At the same time, it has been shown that the breathing method that benefits us most is diaphragmatic breathing: in it, we breathe deeply through our nose and fill our lungs until the lowest part of our abdominal cavity rises.
The benefits of deep breathing
At some point in our lives, everyone has heard someone say “all right, just take a deep breath”. It’s like a spell, like the magic words that at the moment we follow them comfort us and relieve us almost immediately, calming our bodies and reorganizing our thoughts. This strategy would have many added benefits if we got used to doing it on a daily basis, making it a habit.
Here are some changes you might see:
- Your body’s cellular metabolism would improve.
- We would be able to better manage stress and anxiety.
- We would sleep better.
- Our digestive system would work better.
- We would feel less muscle pain and have fewer headaches and migraines.
- We would focus better on our tasks.
- We would improve our posture and have less back pain.
- We would learn to be more present “in the moment”.
Learn to breathe deeply
Just like we mentioned at the beginning, people tend to breathe about 16-17 times a minute. Our goal with deep breathing is to breathe 10 times a minute. Of course, it is not expected that you will be able to do it on your first attempt, but little by little, day by day, you would be able to reach this figure and thus invest in your well-being.
First, find a comfortable place to sit where you can straighten your back. Your clothes should be comfortable and leave room around your waist and abdomen, without squeezing pants or a belt.
- Put your chest in front, relax your shoulders and let your gaze settle.
- Then place one hand on your side and the other on your stomach.
- Inhale slowly and deeply for 4 seconds.
- When you do that, you should feel how the hand on your abdomen moves much more than the hand on your chest.
- Hold your breath for 5 seconds, then exhale audibly through your mouth for 7 seconds.
Start with this rhythm and as you maintain it, you can start adjusting the number of seconds for each step until you can reach an average of 10 breaths per minute. Gradually, you will begin to see the benefits to your physical health, as well as a new level of mental brightness that will help you face each day.
Don’t think twice, start today.