Our breathing is a core element of our body’s functioning, yet we only rarely think about it. Because inhaling and exhaling are so automatic, these activities that we perform tens of thousands of times every day barely register in our minds. Yet the fact that breathing is so automatic does not necessarily mean that we do it correctly. In fact, many of us have poor breathing habits, and these habits can negatively affect our health and prevent us from functioning at 100%.
Breathing habits tend to be very deeply engrained, and changing them can take much effort. Doing so is often worth it, however, as better breathing means more energy, clearer thinking, and an overall better mood. In fact, whenever you find yourself suffering from poor energy or an all-around sense of malaise, you might consider the possibility that poor breathing is the culprit. In any event, improving your habits cannot hurt and will likely help.
Causes of poor breathing
There are many reasons why people develop poor breathing habits. Some engage in these habits all the time, and some only breathe poorly at certain times or in certain types of situations. Other causes of poor breathing are largely beyond the person’s control. A few of the most common causes include:
• Anxiety: When we are anxious, our breathing speeds up and becomes shallower. Ideally, this effect should be confined only to times when there is good cause to feel anxious, but people with high-stress careers or mental health issues might have an overarching sense of anxiety every day of their lives, and this can lead to chronic poor breathing.
• Allergies: Allergies are of course beyond our control, but it is important to understand that even minor, manageable allergies to environmental elements can lead to breathing that is always slightly strained and too shallow.
• Environment: Environmental factors that are not allergies can play a role as well. Ambient pollution and altitude, for example, can lead to poor habits.
• Overweight: When a person carries a lot of extra baggage, it makes everything a little more difficult. This difficulty can often lead to strained breathing
• Poor heart health: When the circulatory system is not in good shape, it makes one feel short of breath, and when one feels short of breath, the tendency is to breathe faster and shallower.
How to improve
No matter what the causes of poor breathing may be, there are some simple tactics that one can employ every day to change habits and gradually improve. Here are a few popular ways that you can adopt better breathing habits to naturally improve your health.
• Meditation: There are many forms of meditation, but the simplest involves sitting in a calm quiet place and clearing your thoughts as much as possible by focusing on your breathing. As you are sitting, consciously direct each inhalation and exhalation, making sure to breathe deeply but naturally. If you do this for 20 to 30 minutes every day, your breathing will begin to improve even when you are not meditating.
• Yoga: Yoga incorporates breathing into many of its postures and activities, and with regular yoga sessions, it is possible to dramatically improve your breathing after just a few weeks. And on top of that, yoga improves your health in numerous other ways, which should further improve your respiratory system.
• Cardiovascular exercise: A few minutes a day of very intense cardiovascular exercise can help to open up your lung capacity. It essentially forces you to breathe deeply, and this can carry into the rest of the day. A ten-minute run or a strenuous bike ride are good activities for this. Just make sure it is something that makes you feel out of breath.
• Consciously retrain yourself: You do not have to dress up your change in any fancy practices, though. You can simply retrain yourself by thinking about your breathing and forcing yourself to do it the right way. If you suspect that you are an overshallow breather, make an effort to breathe from your diaphragm, and avoid periods of intermittent breathing.
By Marc Courtiol