Do you think about every breath you take? Probably not, since breathing is usually automatic, controlled subconsciously by the respiratory center at the base of the brain. You can focus on breathing mindfully, but once you stop, your breathing goes back to its normal rhythm without you thinking about it.
Aside from deep breathing exercises, the only time you notice your breathing is if there is a problem or you are out of breath from exercise or stress. Take this quiz to see what your breathing says about your health, and read on to find out how to breathe properly.
A Right Way and a Wrong Way to Breathe
Even though breathing is an automatic process, there is a right and a wrong way to breathe. And, you can train yourself to breathe the right way regularly. Knowing how to breathe correctly has many benefits, including reducing stress, relieving migraines, and restoring vitality. Breathwork can even help your allergies and improve your digestion.
Breathe through Your Nose
While there are two ways to breathe – through the nose or the mouth – your nose does a much better job. Your nostrils filter, humidify, and warm the air in a way that your mouth can’t. Sometimes breathing through your mouth is necessary. For instance, if you are involved in increased or intense physical activity, or your sinuses are congested. But in general, breathing through your nose is optimal, especially in cold or dry environments.
Use Your Belly to Breathe
Human beings are belly breathers. Located above the stomach, your diaphragm is an important muscle in your respiratory system. With proper breathing, the breath starts in the nose, and then moves to your stomach. As your diaphragm contracts, the belly expands and fills the lungs with air. This creates negative pressure in the chest, resulting in efficient airflow through your lungs.
Train Yourself to Breathe Right
If you have a chronic lung disease like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), you may need extra energy to breathe. That makes breathing through the nose and using your belly especially important since it is so efficient.
People with these conditions usually have to work harder to breathe and often use other muscles such as their neck, chest, and shoulders. For these individuals, re-learning belly breathing can help them breathe more efficiently and reduce their instances of shortness of breath. In addition, pursed-lip breathing – pressing the lips together and inhales through the nose with your mouth closed – is another good technique for people with COPD.
It is not possible to think about your breathing every second of the day, so try to breathe consciously a few times a day. The more you do it, the more natural it will feel and become.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Exercising keeps your lungs functioning well, and a healthy diet centered around fresh fruit and vegetables, lean protein, and fiber can help you stay healthy and active. Avoid eating large meals and food that causes bloating, this will help keep the abdomen from pushing up and constricting the diaphragm’s movement.
If you have asthma, COPD, or other lung diseases, try some relaxation exercises to keep calm and in control to avoid hyperventilation. And, pay attention to air quality, as pollen, irritants, and allergens can affect your breathing.
Breathing out of your nose when you are congested will be more of a challenge. One way to make your breathing easier is to make sure you drink more water. Staying hydrated helps thin secretions while giving the mouth and throat assistance in humidifying the air as it moves into the lungs.
Keep It Simple
Once you start to concentrate on your breathing, it’s easy to overthink it. Realizing that your body is built for breathing helps. Your respiratory system knows what to do. It will tell you when to change your depth of breathing, depending on what you are doing and what is happening around you.
The lungs help keep your blood’s pH in the range that lets all your body’s functions happen the way they should. We have receptors in our body that monitor the blood’s pH and oxygen levels. This system automatically sends signals to our brain to let us know how often and how deep to breathe.
A Note from GR8NESS
This information should not be used in place of medical treatment if you consistently have trouble breathing or often suffer from shortness of breath. Please speak with a physician to seek treatment.