When it comes to our health, we have a tendency to form some habits—the good, the bad, and the ugly. We applaud ourselves when we get a full eight hours of shut-eye and swear to do better post–sugar or taco binge. (Hey, we're only human, right?) However, the last thing on our healthy habit radar was our breathing technique. I mean, come again?
Though we don't have to make as conscious a choice to breathe throughout the day as we do during that 6 a.m. cycling class or to choose the salad over an oil-drenched calzone, studies are saying the way we breathe could make just as great of an impact on our overall well-being. So the next time someone tells you to "just breathe" mid-panic, you should definitely listen.
You probably already knew that some strategic deep breaths can help you calm down during a stressful situation. But did you know that the way you breathe throughout the day (and not just when you're stressed) can impact the way you sleep, think, feel, and even exercise? Yeah, neither did we. In short, if you're not breathing correctly, it can have a direct negative impact on your muscles, brain, nervous system, and even your heart. But before you get overwhelmed (and stop breathing), we've learned some helpful tips.
First of all, breathing out is just as important as breathing in. When we're trying to relax, it's our natural inclination to take in a huge gulp of air without properly exhaling. To make the most out of your breath (and reap healthy rewards like improved oxygen flow, less stress, and reduced blood pressure), follow the steps below.
1. Sigh. Yep, the first thing you'll need to do is breathe out the majority of the air that's in your lungs. This relaxes your upper body and relieves muscle tension. This is key.
2. Next: Close your mouth. Pause, stop breathing, and slowly count to three. (As in one Mississippi, two Mississippi… You know the drill.)
4. As you keep your mouth closed, slowly inhale through your nose, pause, and count to three again. Pro tip: Try to keep your body relatively still. Jerking your chest or making any abrupt movements here will just be counterintuitive.
5. Exhale through your mouth. Continue to stay relaxed, and feel your diaphragm slowly suck back in.
6. Repeat as needed, and, as much as you can, try to incorporate this correct way of breath into your daily routine. Your health will thank you for it.
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This post was published at an earlier date and has been updated.