Aaand Breathe: Why We Could All Do With Breathing More Mindfully
Updated: Feb 7, 2021
We know that as we grow up, we tend to learn things - some of them useful, some of them not so much. But did you also know that we also learn to do things wrong and therefore unlearn what we're already doing right? I know that's a bit of a riddle, so read on.
(This post was requested and I really hope it sheds some light on ways that we can reap the benefits of just giving a slice of our attention to the thing that keeps us alive!)
We are actually born breathing correctly. That is, we're born breathing from our diaphragm - also known as 'tummy breathing.' As we grow up, a lot of us become 'upside down breathers', in that we breathe from the chest. We wouldn't necessarily know that this is happening but a telltale sign is usually our shoulders moving up and down too quickly. As time goes on, our body adjusts to this and it becomes the norm.
All we have to do to right this wrong is simply to slow our breathing down and breathe more mindfully, paying attention to our inhales and exhales a bit more. But firstly, why should we even bother with mindful breathing? Well, it holds TONS of benefits for our entire being - I was initially going to separate these into two lists showing mental and physical benefits but then I realised that I spent my entire Master's degree evidencing why we shouldn't think of the mind and body separately...so one list it is!
Improves feelings - mindful breathing and meditation increase activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the region associated with feelings of calmness and content. In turn, stress levels are lowered. It's said that breathing mindfully also increases levels of serotonin, important in regulating mood. And the benefits don't stop when you're sleeping - meditation is shown to help people sleep more deeply, too.
Muscle strengthening & improved posture - the upright, seated posture that people usually get into when meditating aligns the muscles of the spine as well as strengthening the abdominal muscles. And we know that a strong core is more than just increasing your chances of a toned tummy - it protects the back from pain and strain too. (That wasn't actually meant to rhyme, but I'll take it!)
Biological improvements - helps lower the heart rate and improve blood circulation, which comes with external benefits, helping you to look younger and healthier. It's for that reason that mindful breathing is said to slow the ageing process too.
Shifts perspective - blowing the cobwebs, mindful breathing clears your mind and allows you to reframe and gain more perspective.
Improves immune system - well, that's always a good thing!
Convinced? Now we know the 'why', let's look at the 'how.' My next post will be about breathing techniques you can try and it will be posted on the 20th Feb.