Ok, stop what you are doing and think about how you are breathing. Don’t change your breathing, just monitor it. Are you breathing in and out through your nose or mouth? Are your breaths deep or shallow? Are you breathing in and holding your abdominals in preventing you from breathing into your diaphragm?
What shallow chest breathing does to the body
Shallow chest breathing is what we do when we are confronted with “flight or fight” situations. It can serve us well in the right situation, however, many of us have made this our normal breathing pattern. Problems arise when this response is invoked as a result of less serious (or daily) situations like traffic, work, or relationship worries.
When this happens, production of additional red blood cells may occur to deliver more oxygen to capillaries. This will thicken blood causing the heart to beat faster and harder leading to a hyper-ventilatory response. Additionally, our brain consumes 25% of the oxygen we breathe, but when we deprive our body of oxygen by shallow breathing, we deprive our brain, too. This causes a hormonal imbalance causing serotonin levels to decrease and cortisol to increase.
Impact shallow breathing has on our health:
- High blood pressure.
- The lack of serotonin can lead to depression as it is a an important transmitter for mood.
- Too much circulation of cortisol can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.
- Short temper and impatience
- Poor sleep patterns
- Tire more easily
- Cells become too alkaline due to an imbalance of CO₂.
- May cause hyperventilation, which may cause heart palpitations.
What We Can Do About It Now
The good news is that we can do things that will immediately reverse the effects of shallow breathing. Next time you see a baby, notice his or her breathing pattern. In a healthy baby, the breathing pattern is exactly as it should be. Notice how the baby breaths through it’s nose and how his or her stomach expands when inhaling. We have trained ourselves how to breath shallow, and now we must re-train ourselves to breath normally.
How to Breathe Correctly and Reduce Stress
Step 1: Practice Makes Perfect
Spend 5 minutes or more a day breathing normally (see box above)
Step 2: Observing Your Breath
Stop and notice how you are breathing, and then correct it by taking 2 or 3 slow deep breaths. Try doing this 3 or 4 times per day, and it will train your mind to unconsciously monitor your breathing and let you know when changes occur. Use alarms or timers, if needed.
Step 3:Building New Habits
Set a positive goal around conscious breathing and be vigilant for 30 days. Each day, revisit the habit you wish to learn as well as the benefits of making breathing normally a habit. It’s best to tie this to an already existing habit. For example, I work on the computer all day long. So, I use a timer to keep focused on a task for a specified amount of time. The timer reminds me to get up from the computer, stretch and clear my mind. I also tied my breathing habit to the timer and part of my stretching routine.
Step 4: Progress Tracking
Keep a record for 30 days of:
- How many times and for how long you practiced deep breathing each day.
- How many times were you able to remind yourself to stop and notice your breathing.
- Any instances of where you became aware of your breath during stressful situations.
- Instances where you could have used deep breathing but did not.
Step 5: Don’t Give Up
Even if you don’t practice deep breathing for an entire day, pick it up the next day.
Some other obvious ways to improve your breathing is take up yoga, tai chi or meditation. All of these focus on breath control and relaxation, and they are proven to reduce stress as well. However, it’s equally important that you reduce the stress in your life by breathing deeper as a habit rather than exception. Learning to breath deeper is an easy fix compared to pharmaceuticals and doctor visits.
Correct breathing is also a discussed in my book, Fat Burning Secrets, as part resistance and cardio exercise.
Thank you for reading, and I encourage you to comment below as well as share this with others (sources listed at the bottom).
Here’s another post you may like:
Good Health is the Greatest Wealth,
- Book: “Perfect Breathing: Transform Your Life One Breath at a Time” by Al Lee and Don Campbell
- YMAA.com: “The importance to your health of deep breathing.“
- TheAlternativeDaily.com: “8 Things That Happen To You When You Breathe Wrong“
- AdrenalFatigue.org: “Cortisol & Adrenal Function“
- Health.Harvard.edu: “Relaxation techniques: Breath control helps quell errant stress response“
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