You don’t realize how important some things are until you stop doing them – take breathing for instance…. Breathing seems natural enough, we do it on ‘auto-pilot’ — thank goodness! Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to remind yourself to breathe in, breathe out?

Yet, is your breathing auto-pilot working correctly?

Rushing around, “never catching your breath,” takes its toll, both mentally and physically. We often hold our breath and don’t even know we are doing it. Take a moment, right now, throw your arms open wide to expand your rib cage and take several full, complete breaths. Notice how your mood instantly changes? Presto, just like magic.

“Never catching your breath,” also known as breathing rapid and shallow (or high) seems to be the current state of most people’s auto-pilot. Shallow breathing only fills the upper chest area. When you breathe in using only one-third to one-half of the true or natural capacity, the result is that you are not getting the required oxygen to have both the mind and body function properly. The result is stress and tension increase in the body and your thinking can become hazy or muddled.  It doesn’t take too many rapid breaths to have both physical and mental effects.

The Not-So-Obivous Effects of Breathing

Besides stress and tension, hyperventilation, or turning blue and passing out, the negative effects of breathing rapid or shallow include a prolonged state of fight-or-flight. The constant release of fight-or-flight chemicals keeps you feeling as though you are under continuous assault or threat.

The fight-or-flight response is your hard-wired early warning system, designed to alert you to external threats. It not only warns us of real danger but also the mere perception of danger and can be a major factor in BURN-OUT! .

Although often consciously unaware of this perception, the message breathing high (shallow) sends to others is anger, danger, be afraid, or some other form of distress. When you’re breathing rapidly, others not only wonder if you are okay, but also they unconsciously worry about their own safety.

Breathing patterns are contagious; take care not to let yourself be affected by another person’s high, shallow or rapid breathing. Your breathing patterns and emotions are intertwined. Rapid breathing and the chemical changes that follow will also stop you from fully experiencing traumatic emotions all at one time – a benefit during crisis.

In short, your breathing pattern can change your emotional state and vice versa.

Do a little experiment. Quickly sniff (short rapid inhales through the nose) ten times. What are you feeling right now? Most people feel a twinge of anxiety or anxiousness. That is the beginning of the fight-or-flight response.

The Way Nature Intended

Take a moment to observe how you are breathing right now. Low abdominal breathing is the natural pattern in normal situations. The purpose of consciously breathing with long, slow, deep abdominal breaths is to bring the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels back into balance. It does not take too many rapid breaths to get your body’s carbon dioxide-oxygen level out of balance. Remind yourself to breathe with natural and comfortable breaths when confronted by stressful situations. The increase in oxygen will decrease your anxiety and soothe your nerves. Breathing low is full and deep. It could also be called “complete breathing” as even the belly area expands. This type of breathing actually relaxes the body and helps clear a foggy mind.

While sitting quietly, place one hand on your abdomen and the other on your upper chest, and monitor how deeply and completely you are really breathing even at rest. Count the number of cycles you breathe in and out per minute. An inhalation, pause, exhalation and pause make one cycle. A normal inhalation and exhalation cycle occurs twelve to fourteen times a minute when awake, and six to eight times a minute while asleep.

Monitor your breathing from time to time to make sure your breathing is sending a message to both yourself and others of being confident and comfortable.

Enjoying the adventure
To Success! To Life!

P.S. There are many experts on stress reduction and all are valuable for our long term health. Seek out professional stress reduction help when necessary.