Newsflash: To live, you have to breath. Yes, it had to be said. Of course it doesn’t take a person of high intellect to understand that we will literally die if we stop breathing, but I do want to note that my emphasis on breathing refers to our daily health and well-being. Your breathing patterns throughout the day impact major things that we wouldn’t even think to connect it to, like energy and daily mood. The viscous daily work flow and the stress it causes can slow your breathing rate down simply due to being in a constant state of stress (i.e. tense muscles means tense nerves, and tense nerves means irregular breathing pattern). Cortisol is then released as a response to the stress, further making you more tense and irritable, subsequently leading to a mental state that screams “I just want to be somewhere on an island sipping a margarita, is that too much to ask?” This is why it is so beneficial, and arguably detrimental, to your health to take just a few seconds out of your day to focus on breathing.
The Physical Benefits
Making sure a steady flow of oxygen is entering your lungs and blood stream provides vital physical benefits. Because deep breathing releases endorphins, those same “feel-good” hormones are also applied in situations where you’re feeling physical pain. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to hold your breath and begin shouting expletive language when you stub your toe.That’s expected, but although it may not be easy to keep this in mind at the moment, taking deep, controlled breaths is very beneficial in getting oxygen through your blood and the endorphins released, thus dulling the pain.
Focused breathing has other physical benefits, like better posture for example. The body needs to be straight to maximize the amount of oxygen entering the lungs, which happens to be good for your spine. However, none are quite as important as the positive effects focused breathing has on your lymphatic system. Responsible for ridding our body of toxins, wastes and dead cells, the lymphatic system is critical in keeping your body and system clean, as well as clearing out the mental toxins that build up from stress, over-thinking, and lack of sleep. Oxygen is required in order to keep the lymphatic system functioning at optimum level, so if you guessed breathing well as the best method for keeping this precious system going strong, you guessed correctly.
This is why it’s important to incorporate deep, methodical breaths into your daily routine to heal your body and mind. The morning is when I do my go-to breathing technique, the “4-7-8,” mentioned in the breathing technique in which I’ve provided a step-by-step for how to do in the second link after this sentence. Throughout the day I use a little of my breaks to close my eyes and literally meditate by focusing on the rhythm of my breathing. Night time before going to bed to unwind is also an excellent time to dedicate to breathing. If you work in a cubicle, time yourself for 15 seconds, zone out with your eyes open (instead of closing your eyes in case your boss comes by), empty your mind, and take some deep breaths. If you have more laborious work that doesn’t allow you to take as many on-the-job breathers, use your breaks and lunch time to do a few breathing techniques. Allowing yourself to get caught up in the daily grind can cause you stress, leading to tense muscles and an uneasy nervous system. This could then cause things like irritability, sluggishness, tiredness, and lack of awareness, as well inflammation responses from the body triggered by stress. I hate to be quite literal about it, but hey, you’ve got to get on board with breathing in that magical gift of life we call air, ya know?
The Psychological Benefits
Of course, on top of the physical benefits of focused breathing, there are also psychological benefits. For one, it’s a cliche for a reason that stopping, breathing, and counting works when you’re angry or stressed. Rhythmic breathing slows the heart rate down, which slows down the amount of cortisol, testosterone and adrenaline produced and pumping through your blood. This then puts your body in a parasympathetic, or “relaxation” state, and it is impossible to release stress hormones in this state. This physiological response that breathing has on the body then slows down the production of the stress hormones as well as slows the ones already circulating in your system, calming and de-stressing you. This is why breathing techniques are perfect for situations where you’re about to blow your lid, or when you’re feeling nervous, excited, or anxious.
Subsequently, taking deep breaths and connecting with life around you at the moment also makes you happy. It releases neurochemical production that elevates your mood as well as help regulate pain, as mentioned before. The best way to put it is that it’s like a great, expansive chain of healthy reactions; deep breathing fills the lungs with oxygen, and during the inhalation point, your body is receiving its greatest blood flow of the breathing cycle, and this is when the most oxygen is able to infiltrate the blood. When a healthy flow of oxygen is circulating through your body, your body is able to cleanse itself of toxins and debris, directly leading to things like better quality of sleep, stress reduction, and energy.
If You’re Not Breathing, You’re Not Living, Am I Right?
Although it’s easy to get caught up in your daily hustle, taking some time throughout the day to focus on breathing can be extremely beneficial to your health. Deep breathing and steady methodical breathing patterns are key to unlocking a slew of physical and psychological benefits, like pain regulation and keeping you energized via healthy lymphatic regulation. I figure it this way; since breathing is quite literally, the essence of life, why not take at least a few extra seconds out of your day to do it some more? You know, allow breathing to do for you what it’s supposed to do for you: Live.