Luckily, changing your breathing habits isn’t all that complicated. All you have to do is adopt the following five simple principles, and you’ll be sure to make the most out of the 25,000 breaths you take every day:
1. Breathe through the nose
Every breath you take should go in and out through the nose. You can think of your nose as a little factory that refines and prepares the air coming in to be used by the body as efficiently as possible.
When you breathe through your mouth, the lungs get a lot more “unfiltered” air that is raw, cold, dry and full of viruses and bacteria. So, be kind to your lungs and breathe through your nose, will ya?
If you feel like your nasal passages are too tight to breathe trough, that’s most likely because you’ve been breathing through your mouth for so long that your nose has adapted.
It usually won’t take more than a couple of days of nose breathing to open up your nostrils again.
2. Breathe with the diaphragm
The air you breathe in through your nose should go all the way down in your belly. 70–80% of the inhaling should be done by the diaphragm so that your breathing is nice and deep. That has a couple of advantages:
It helps your lungs with the gas exchange because it’s much more efficient in the lower parts of the lungs.
The diaphragm ”massages” your liver, stomach, and intestines, giving these organs a rhythmical balance.
The lymphatic system, which is important for your immune system, gets the help it needs to get rid of the waste products from the bowels.
The pressure in the chest and belly is decreased so that the heart won’t have to work as hard.
The chest becomes more relaxed, and so does the neck and shoulders. As a result, the likelihood of pain in these areas goes down.
3. Breathe relaxed
No matter what you want to do, you’ll do it better if you’re relaxed. Since your breathing reflects your thoughts and feelings, situations that make you feel tense also lead to tense and stressed breathing pattern. That way of breathing then leads to a lack of oxygen which, in turn, makes your body and brain even more stressed.
By taking control of your breathing and making it more relaxed, your body ”tunes in” and becomes relaxed as well, which leads to better functioning in general.
When your body is relaxed, your health is good, and your energy is high, it becomes easier to be happy and loving toward yourself and others.
4. Breathe rhythmically
Everything has a natural rhythm — the ocean waves, the seasons, the moon. Your body is no different. The rhythm of your heart is measured in EKG and the brain in EEG.
The hormones in the body follow our natural rhythm. One example is melatonin that is released when you’re going to sleep.
Optimal breathing is no different: When everything is in tune, your body functions at it’s very best.
5. Breathe silently
Coughing, snoring, sniffling and so on, are suboptimal breaths in disguise.
It’s easy to neglect all these sounds we make, but a breathing pattern that contains a lot of them puts a considerable strain on the body. The breath loses its rhythm, and we mess up principle number 4.
Before we sigh or cough we usually take a big breath which leads to irregular breathing. Snoring means we have to compensate through breathing faster.
A lot of us breathe quicker and louder when we talk. All these noises and talking lead to incorrect breathing.
How to Breathe Properly
Ok, so now you know that your habitual way of breathing is likely not very good for your health and well-being.
That is important information, but it won’t help you unless you implement the habit of proper breathing into your life. Here’s how you do that:
1. Create Recurring ”Breath Check Triggers”
Choose five naturally occurring triggers to remind you to become aware of your breath every day. Formulate them as “If → Then plans” and spread them out throughout your day.
If my alarm clock goes off → Then I will check my breathing.
If I’ve put the last dish in the dishwasher → Then I will check my breathing.
If I sit down at my desk → Then I will check my breathing.
If I close my car door → Then I will check my breathing.
If I turn off my bedroom light → Then I will check my breathing.
If you find it helpful, you can also use reminders like post-it notes or phone alarms to remind you. The important thing is you pause and adjust your breathing pattern several times every day.