Former top researcher at Microsoft, Linda Stone, noticed she had a tendency to hold her breath while reading or responding to emails and decided to conduct a study to see if other people did the same.
The results revealed that four out of five people appeared to have “email apnea,” meaning they held their breath or tended to breathe more shallowly while they worked their way through their email.
During her research, Stone found a strong correlation between breath-holding and the vagus nerve, which is responsible for mediating the autonomic nervous system that includes the fight-or-flight system as well as the “rest-and-digest” system.
Holding your breath puts the body into fight-or-flight mode, causing the heart rate to skyrocket and the liver to pour glucose and cholesterol into the bloodstream.
Stone noted, “It isn’t email that is making us crazy. It’s how we’re doing email that is making us crazy. If we were all driving with no speed limits and no stop signs, there would be chaos. That’s how I think about how many of us are doing email.”
Stone’s research led her to believe that, as a whole, we may be more obese and diabetic due to a combination of holding the breath off and on all day long with failing to move when the body has prepared us to do just that.
Therefore, taking time to perform daily breathing exercises may help decrease a variety of stress-related health conditions, such as asthma, depression, ADD and obesity.
Here are some of the tech visionary’s tips for better breathing and better health:
- Taking a big exhale—Stone says this is one of the easiest ways to get your body out of fight-or-flight mode.
- Check your breathing, particularly when you’re working at the computer. Inhale deeply followed by a deep exhale to help replenish your body with oxygen and eliminate toxic carbon dioxide, which can immediately make you feel better and less tense.
- If you find you’re holding your breath too often, it may be time to walk away from the computer and take your mind off all the things on your to-do list.
- Set a limit as to how often you check your email. If you only respond to messages a few times a day, people will gradually stop expecting you to be immediately available. Checking your email the moment you wake up, on your smartphone in the bathroom, and at every stop light while you’re driving is a sign that you really need to give yourself a break—and remember to breathe.
- Wear a heart-rate variability monitor. Stone says she clips one to her ear in order to become more aware of the relationship between her mind and body. The monitor provides visual clues through multicolored lights to make the user aware of the state of his or her nervous system.
- Taking time to breathe correctly as well as taking time for yourself away from the daily grind—including all of your electronic gadgets—can help you be more productive in the long run, in addition to improving overall health and well-being.
-The Alternative Daily