Breathing is something so fundamental to everyday life, it has such simplistic elegance that its power is often overlooked. But what many are unaware of, is the connection between breathing and your general wellness. Working within the food industry we are often educated on ways in which nutrition and food are linked to health, and whilst we understand the value of eating kale and spinach, we always strive to gain a wider understanding of all aspects of general health and wellbeing. With evidence that breath control releases endorphins, lowers cortisol levels in your body and boosts oxygen levels in your body and brain, breathing has piqued our interest.
So here are some breathing tricks and tips you can implement on a daily basis to help reduce and manage stress, calm your mind and boost your overall wellbeing.
Awareness of your breathing
First and foremost, it is important to be aware of your breathing. This means how deep, how fast and literally how you’re breathing (through your nose or your mouth?). We’re not suggesting you sit in your office counting and timing your breathing, but simply paying attention to your go-to way of breathing on a day-to-day basis is helpful.
As you begin to become more aware of the way you breathe, your breathing will begin to become increasingly even and deep. Your mind associates this sensation with relaxation, which then signals the rest of your body to relax too – your heart rate slows and blood pressure decreases.
Becoming more aware of your breathing can also provide an indication of your current mental state. If your breathing is quick and shallow, then you’re more likely stressed, whereas deep and regular breaths are a sign of calmness.
Not sure what it is? Always a great place to start: belly breathing, is the technique of pushing your stomach out whilst breathing. It is actually an ancient technique that has been practised for thousands of years by cultures around the world. In fact, both yoga and pilates focus on belly breathing for its meditative effects.
It’s easy to do and is a great technique to help you stop, and relax wherever you are. Why not give it a try the next time you feel a little anxious and notice the positive impact it has.
- Put on hand on your stomach, just below your ribs, with the other hand on your chest.
- Take one deep breath through your nose, and let your stomach push your hand out – make sure your chest does not move.
- Breath out with your mouth, Feel the hand on your stomach go in and use it to push all the air out.
- Repeat this around 10 times and take your time with each breath.
Posture and breathing
Posture: something many of us 9-5 office workers know the importance of, yet proceed to sit hunched at our desks squinting at our laptops. But, did you know that as well as harming your spinal alignment and muscles, poor posture invites distorted and restricted shallow breathing? To make things worse, studies have shown a poor posture welcomes nervous, negative thinking. These two go hand in hand, as bad posture means poor breathing, and as mentioned, poor breathing has adverse effects on our wellness.
So next time you notice you’re hunching at your desk, sit up with your back straight, your shoulders back and your lower back touching the back of your chair. This will open up your diaphragm, making it easier to take those slow, deep breaths we keep suggesting.
Breathing and sleep
We’re all aware of the health benefits of a good night’s sleep, but in our busy, fast-paced society, it can be hard to take a moment to unwind and calm down before getting some well-need shut-eye, and even harder getting to sleep. Along with switching off the white-light on devices and spraying your pillow with a calming mist, specific breathing techniques can also help you wind down and fall asleep faster.
Have you heard of the 4-7-8 breathing technique?
This is a breathing pattern developed by Dr Andrew Weil. It’s based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama, which helps individuals relax as it replenishes oxygen in the body.
According to members of the Feedr team, practising this technique regularly before bed has helped them fall asleep in a shorter period of time. And what’s better than looking forward to getting into bed and indulging in some ‘you time’ after all – even an early night on a Monday feels like a treat now.
Here’s how to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique:
- Lie down with your lips slightly pursed and breathe out slowly.
- Inhale through your nose slowly and count for 4 seconds.
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds.
- Exhale again for 8 seconds
- Repeat 4 times over.
So next time you’re lying in bed and struggling to switch your brain off, give this a try, it might be that well-needed solution to help you drift off.