Feeling stressed? Simple tweaks to breathing can immeasurably boost wellbeing and reduce stress. Here’s how to audit and upgrade your breath for better physical and mental health.
Step 1: Breathe from your abdomen
To get the most out of each breath, you need to breathe from your belly, says Ros Ben-Moshe, director of Laughlife Wellbeing Programs.
“Optimal breathing stems from the abdomen, where a richer inhalation of oxygen and exhalation of carbon dioxide occurs, slowing the heart rate and easing anxiety.” She says breathing deeper in this way stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces feelings of “peace and calm”.
“Interestingly, we begin our lives breathing well, which can be seen watching babies breathing, as they take deep breaths in and out with their abdomen rising and falling, not their chest,” Ben-Moshe notes. Somewhere along the way we lose this vital skill of breathing through our tummies, and rely on shallow breathing instead.
Hot Tip: Place your hand on your belly when breathing. Though it feels counter-intuitive, Ben-Moshe says that when you breathe in, your abdomen should stick out, and when you breathe out, your abdomen is sucked back in.
Step 2: Breathe through your nostrils
Your nostrils are there for a reason, peeps. Breathing through them heats air up so that it travels ‘more easily’ through the body.
Mouth breathing, on the other hand, can cause health issues. Such were the findings of research published in the Jan/Feb issue of General Dentistry in 2010.
While the findings focused on the effects of mouth breathing on kids (and how it can even change the shape of their faces), mouth breathing can also cause poor oxygen concentrations. This in turn can lead to health issues such as high blood pressure, heart problems and other issues. Yikes.
Naturopath Mim Beim of Breathing Well goes one step further, saying: “If you are a mouth breather, the very best thing you can do for your health is to learn to breathe through your nose.” She says you will get fewer colds, have better circulation and improved concentration.
Hot Tip: Whenever you catch yourself breathing through your mouth, swap it to nose breathing, asap. Pretty simple, right?