Breathing properly is something that everyone should learn to do.
But you may be thinking, “wait, I do breathe properly.” While we take thousands of breaths each day, that doesn’t necessarily mean we are breathing properly, effectively or being mindful about our breath. Becoming a better breather can improve mental, physical and spiritual health, and here’s how.
What is classed as breathing properly?
Before you learn how to breathe better, you must be mindful and aware of how you breathe. Many of us start off life breathing correctly before stressors and other external factors get in the way. Firstly, each breath should fill your lungs, making your stomach and chest expand and your shoulders rise. This should be done through the nose.
Breathing through the nose can significantly lessen the number of bacteria and irritants that we breathe in. Furthermore, the nose is meant to humidify the air, which is something our mouth cannot do, leading to a dry, bacteria-filled mouth. There are many breathing exercises out there to help you get started with breathing better and more mindfully. All you have to do is look on YouTube for guided exercises from trained professionals.
Why don’t we breathe properly?
There are plenty of reasons why we don’t breathe properly. One is our posture. Over time, many of us end up sitting leaning forward with our back bent, meaning we are preventing our diaphragm from fully expanding. Therefore, we cannot take a full breath. This has come from working in offices, sitting at computers and playing on video games. If you want to breathe better, start to look at how you sit for extended periods of time.
Stress also has a huge impact on how we breathe. We are designed to take shallower, shorter breaths when our body feels threatened or under attack. This is called fight-or-flight mode and can also lead us to holding our breath without realising. Even the fit of your clothes or holding in your stomach to look thinner can affect how we breathe.
Benefits of breathing properly
There are several benefits to breathing properly and mindfully, and below we look at a few.
1. Better sleep
Breathing properly can affect your sleep, meaning your whole day is affected too. Breathing through your mouth can lead to a dry mouth and open-mouth snoring (which is likely affecting your partner’s sleep too). Instead, breathing through your nose will ultimately lead to a better sleep all round and allows you to feel more rested and wake up with a fresher, cleaner mouth. If you struggle to sleep with your mouth closed, why not try these hygienic mouth strips?
2. Reduced stress and anxiety
Performing breathing exercises helps our body to understand we are safe and sends a message to our brain letting us know that everything is okay. Many leading health experts advocate breathing exercises for moments of anxiety or panic, as it gives us something to focus on, rather than letting the thoughts in our head get the better of us. There are many apps you can download on your phone that allow you to do guided breaths when you need a moment of calm. Breath exercises can also be linked into meditation exercises, which is another great practice for combatting anxiety and even depression. Click here for a lowdown on the 9 best meditation and breathing apps.
3. Better digestion
When we shallow breathe, we only get so much oxygen into our lungs, leading to a lack of oxygen throughout the body. While this may not leave you breathless – and therefore it can be difficult to notice – it can have an impact on many functions in the body, including digestion. Those who don’t breathe effectively may notice more bloating and stomach cramps, as the body takes longer to digest food. This is because the digestive system needs plenty of oxygen-rich blood in order to metabolize quickly and efficiently. Deeper breathing has also been shown to reduce acidity within the body, thus reducing any inflammation in the gut.
4. Allows us to be present
We are all too guilty of not being present. Focusing on something as simple as our breath can help bring us back to reality when we are stressing way too much over that staggering to-do list in our head, instead of focusing on what is currently in front of us. Being in the now is extremely helpful to be more aware, alert and happier.
Now that you have seen all that breathing properly and mindfully can do to benefit your life, it’s time to give it a go yourself.