Breathing is something we all do without thinking about it, but did you know that improving your breathing techniques can have many benefits for your physical and mental health? Finding a few minutes each day to focus on deep breathing and relaxation can help to reduce stress, increase energy levels, and promote overall well-being.
Learning to breathe better can also have a significant impact on the nervous system, particularly the autonomic nervous system (ANS).
The ANS is responsible for regulating many of the body's internal functions, such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, and immune system function. It has two main branches, the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which work together to maintain homeostasis in the body.
When we're under stress, the SNS is activated, which triggers the "fight or flight" response. This response can be helpful in certain situations, but if it's activated too often, it can lead to chronic stress, anxiety, and other health problems.
Deep breathing can help to activate the PNS, which is responsible for the "rest and digest" response. When the PNS is activated, heart rate and breathing rate slow down, blood pressure decreases, and muscles relax. This helps to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety and promote a sense of calm and relaxation.
Research has shown that practicing deep breathing and other relaxation techniques can help to reduce the activity of the SNS and increase the activity of the PNS, leading to improved physical and mental health. So by learning to breathe better, you can help to balance your nervous system and promote overall well-being.
Here are a couple techniques to help you get started:
Diaphragmatic Breathing (also known as belly breathing)
To practice this technique, sit or lie down in a comfortable position and place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest. Breathe in slowly through your nose, letting your belly rise as you inhale. Exhale slowly through your mouth, letting your belly fall. Repeat for a few minutes, focusing on the sensation of your breath moving in and out of your body. This technique can help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.
Box breathing involves breathing in for a set count, holding the breath for the same count, exhaling for the same count, and then holding the breath for the same count again. For example, you might breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold for a count of four before starting again. Box breathing can be done anywhere and only takes a few minutes to complete.
Learning to breathe better can have many benefits including reduced stress and anxiety, improved lung function, better sleep, increased energy, improved digestion, reduced pain, and improved focus and concentration. By incorporating deep breathing techniques into your daily routine, you can help to balance your nervous system and promote overall well-being. Experiment with different techniques and find what works best for you and your lifestyle.