Quite often, the way we breathe says a lot about how our life is going, and luckily better breathing is something you can probably start doing right now.
Of course, some people do have particular respiratory and associated conditions and this can prevent major shifts in breathing patterns, but for the rest of us, essentially it’s a case of shutting your mouth!
How stress affects our breathing (and so many other things).
There’s a great deal of scientific evidence that shows that when we’re in the stress response our body shifts into a different state of function and the health effects can be quite detrimental to us on many levels.
For example, the stress response (our old friend Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn) is really there for us as a function designed to occur in a short sharp way in short and sharp bursts, like for example if a lion was suddenly chasing us.
Our body detects the stress, the stress response kicks in and that means everything we don’t need to survive the lion is switched off.
This includes the dialing back of our digestive system and our reproductive system.
It also takes oxygen and blood away from our Frontal Cortex, instead flooding the emotional centers of our brain, including the Amygdala, with the blood and oxygen, therefore making us significantly more emotional (you might need rage to slay that lion!).
But, there are knock-on effects on our well-being from being in the stress response for long periods, including an unhealthy gut that has been linked to mental health issues, and hormonal issues centering around our reproductive system.
But the other big thing stress does is it seriously affects our breathing.
Stressed people are more likely to shallow breathe through their mouths.
Healthy breathing habits include slow breathing into your stomach through your nose and there have been a number of studies that have looked at the direct benefits of the practice.
One interesting finding was that nose breathing can better help protect us against germs and disease because nose hairs and mucus membranes act as a filter against dust, mold, and bacteria.
Nose breathing is also essential for deep, restorative sleep, according to this report, while it was also found the habit can help us avoid heart and vascular disease.
While Dr. Ann Kearney from the Otolaryngology Department at Stanford University in the U.S. says the emotional well-being we might achieve through better breathing techniques is also significant.
“We breathe through our nose at a slower rate, and its moisture and temperature control make for a better and more efficient system.
“Poorly regulated breathing is associated with anxiety disorders and depression.”
While an additional benefit of nose breathing could be improved memory function.
As always, start slow, and if you have any pre-existing medical conditions consult your Doctor first.
Overall though, I think we can all see the potential benefits of rethinking our breathing, it’s a good habit that seems to be a quick and inexpensive move towards a healthier body and mind.