When you hear the term “healthy lifestyle,” what do you think of? Perhaps topics such as eating nutritious foods, sleeping well, getting plenty of exercise and drinking lots of water come to mind. Perhaps engaging in fun activities outside is on your list. While these are all important aspects of a healthy lifestyle, there’s another to add. It’s one which you may not think about at all… how you breathe.
Most of our breathing is done unconsciously, so you may not often stop to consider it. However, if your breathing is shallow, or if you are making your chest do all the work (as opposed to your diaphragm), it may lead to some negative effects on your health. The following are six reasons to pay more attention to the quality and method of your breathing:
Breathing poorly may impair your concentration
If you’re feeling foggy, out of focus or you just can’t seem to concentrate clearly at certain times of the day, it’s worth it to check your breathing. If you are breathing too rapidly (because of stress or other factors), you may not have the right balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body. This can affect your ability to think clearly and concentrate.
Shallow breathing may make you feel more agitated
Rapid, shallow breathing is common in people with anxiety, especially before and during a panic attack. Now, while shallow breathing may not directly lead to a panic attack, it may make you feel more stressed out. If you breathe like you’re hyperventilating (even if you’re not anxious and merely being emphatic about something), it may lead to spikes in anxiety. Slowing and deepening your breathing can do the opposite — it has a calming effect.
Not breathing correctly may result in unhealthy skin
If you are breathing in a way that you are not getting enough oxygen, it may result in breakouts, blemishes and signs of unhealthy skin in general. This is because your skin is not getting enough of the oxygen-rich blood that it needs to appear vital and nourished.
Improper breathing may make it harder to exercise
If you do not breathe with your diaphragm and breathe shallowly with your chest instead, you will have a much harder time with endurance tasks. These include going on a long run or participating in high-intensity interval training (HIIT). You may feel winded a lot faster. You may feel painfully out of breath in a short period of time.
Learning to breathe properly is essential to getting the most out of your workout. This is a very important thing. As we know, exercise is one of the fundamental cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle.
Improper breathing can mess with your sleep
If the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body is off due to improper breathing, you may feel fatigued and listless. On the other hand, it may also be more difficult to sleep, even though you’re more tired. If there is not enough carbon dioxide in your body, insomnia may be one effect.
As sleep is absolutely vital to a healthy life, doing all you can to ensure you get the best sleep possible is key. Learning to breathe well is one important aspect.
Incorrect breathing may lead to certain types of pain
Although it has not been scientifically proven, there are theories that suggest that not breathing correctly can lead to chest pain, headaches, neck pain, upper back pain and numbness. This could be because of your chest and the muscles in your upper body having to work too hard if you do not engage your diaphragm while you breathe.
So, if you regularly have chest pain, back pain or any of the types of pain listed, but have not been able to find an underlying reason, your breath may just be one thing to consider.
Embrace the power of good breathing!
To breathe deeply and properly, the key is to engage your diaphragm, located just below your ribcage. You’ll know you’re breathing correctly when your stomach goes out on the inhale and in on the exhale. This may seem counterintuitive and take some practice, but you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you feel. Keep your breath regular and smooth — about eight to 10 breath cycles each minute is about right. Everyone is different, but once you get into your groove, it will be like second nature.
If you want to get detailed instruction in breathing the best way possible, you could check out a guided meditation, yoga class or tai chi class in your area. All of these practices incorporate deep breathing. If you choose one (or more) to engage in, you’ll learn to breathe like a pro and get many other healthy benefits, as well.
When is the last time you gave your breath the attention it deserves?
— Tanya Mead