Breathing: The Underrated Key to Better Health

Are You Breathing Correctly?

Stop for a Second and Really Think About It

We all breathe without thinking about it, right? After all, it’s the most natural thing in the world. But here’s the thing – chances are, you’re doing it completely wrong and it could be impacting your health.

Modern life is chronically stressful. We’re always on the go, stimulated by technology, and our bodies revert to shallow “fight or flight” breathing in our chests. Problems arise when this becomes our normal way of breathing, instead of the occasional freak-out it’s meant to be.

Signs You May Need to Fix Your Breathing

Have you ever noticed your chest rising more than your belly when you breathe? That’s a telltale sign of improper “chest breathing.” Proper abdominal breathing should make your stomach inflate like a balloon as you inhale and deflate as you exhale.

Here are some other red flags:

  • Not being able to take a full, deep breath through your nose for at least 7 seconds
  • Needing to yawn, sigh, or open your mouth to get a complete breath
  • Keeping your mouth open frequently because it’s more comfortable

If these sound familiar, it’s time to relearn how to breathe.

Why Breathing Matters More Than You Think

Okay, you might be thinking “It’s just breathing, chill out.” But improper breathing has serious impacts.

Proper abdominal breathing helps get optimal levels of oxygen circulating to your brain, muscles, and every cell in your body. Diseases can’t thrive in an oxygenated environment, so shallow chest breathing opens you up to chronic illnesses.

The Science Behind Proper Breathing

When you take a full breath in, air travels into your lungs. Your lungs are filled with tiny air sacs called alveoli. These alveoli have a very thin lining. Oxygen passes through this lining and into your bloodstream.

Your blood then carries oxygen to all parts of your body. Every cell needs oxygen to function and stay healthy. If you do not breathe properly, you will not get enough oxygen. This causes problems for your body and your health.

When you breathe out, you expel carbon dioxide from your body. Carbon dioxide is a waste product. It is produced when your cells use oxygen. If carbon dioxide builds up in your body, it can cause many issues. It can make you feel tired or give you a headache.

Proper breathing strikes a good balance. It allows oxygen in and removes carbon dioxide efficiently. Poor breathing leads to too much carbon dioxide in your blood. This reduces the amount of oxygen your cells receive. Your cells become “starved” of oxygen.

This starvation can damage organs over time. It causes inflammation in your body. Inflammation has been linked to serious diseases. These include heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Breathing properly helps to prevent these issues.

Shallow breathing overworks your body. Your body has to work too hard to get oxygen. This strains the muscles in your neck and chest. Over time this makes them tight and tired. Shallow breathing makes daily activities feel like more effort.

To summarise:

  • Shallow breathing reduces oxygen flow to cells
  • It increases levels of carbon dioxide in the blood
  • This can damage organs and cause disease over time
  • It overworks the muscles in your neck and chest
  • It makes daily tasks harder and more tiring

Proper breathing is a simple practice. But it can have a huge positive impact on your health. It allows your body to work efficiently and reduces strain. Do not underestimate the importance of breathing well!

It also stabilizes your core, improves posture, reduces inflammation, and regulates stress. That’s a lot of benefits just from learning to belly breathe!

Simple Ways to Breathe Better Starting Today

The good news? Relearning proper breathing is easy as can be. Here are some simple tips:

  • Watch a baby breathe. Their bellies naturally rise and fall. We’re all born doing it right, so emulate babies anytime you notice your breath.
  • Right before drifting off to sleep, relax and observe how your most rested breathing works. Your body will naturally revert to abdominal breathing when fully relaxed. This gives you a sense of what to aim for.
  • Try a quick abdominal breathing meditation daily. Close your eyes and consciously breathe deeply into your belly for 5 minutes. Multitasking at its finest – you’ll reduce stress too!
  • Mouth breather? Work on making your mouth opening smaller each day until nose breathing is comfortable.
  • Do some planks. This core-strengthening exercise makes belly breathing way easier.
  • Avoid processed foods, which force your body to breathe heavier and cause imbalances.
  • Try out some yoga! The breathing practices like Ujjayi, Buteyko, and alternate nostril breathing teach effective techniques you can take home. For example, inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 8, exhale for 6 while pulling the belly towards the spine. Or, breathe in through one nostril, switch and exhale through the other.

The best part? You can begin anytime, anywhere without even getting up. So why wait? Give it a try right now and see if you can’t breathe a bit easier.

Bottom Line: Use It or Lose It

Breathing may seem basic, but modern habits are compromising this vital function. Relearn to breathe deeply using your diaphragm, not your chest. With some simple mindfulness and practice, you’ll reap dividends in your energy, posture, stress levels, and overall health. We all take breathing for granted, but when you get it right, that’s one more tool to thrive in today’s world.

Photo by Zoom Health

Zoom Health is a leading UK supplier of Home Health Tests and Earplugs

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