Breathing is Not an Option

by Jo-Ann Downey

in Mental Clarity & Calmness

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You’re going to breathe all day anyway, so why not make the best of it?  Studies show, and eastern cultures have known for centuries, that proper breathing habits can increase calmness. And the great news is that you have personal control of your breathing habits, you can practice rain or shine, and it’s free!

The Power of your Breath

Here’s one way to look at the power of your breath.  You can live weeks without food. You can live days without water. You cannot live at all without breathing (oxygen).  Breathing provides life, so it makes sense that the better you breathe, the better you live.

In addition to facilitating calmness, studies show that effective breathing habits can reduce stress, help relax your mind and body, increase your energy level and improve general well-being.

“A healthy mind has an easy breath.” Author unknown
“He lives most life whoever breathes most air.” Elizabeth Barrett Browning
“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Breathing is Not an Option and that is a very good thing.

Breathing Techniques

Since the concept of proper breathing is not new, there are many educational resources available to you including books, videos, DVDs, CDs and workshops.  Also, many yoga and meditation classes include a conscious breathing component.

I practice diaphragmatic (abdominal) breathing because, for me, it’s effective and easy to remember.  Basically, I breathe like a baby or young child – deeply, slowly and fully.  I know I am breathing effectively when my stomach is relaxed and it moves and out with my breath; my stomach expands when I breathe in and contracts when I breathe out.

Let’s look at the opposite of deep breathing.  Have you ever noticed how shallow and fast you breathe when you are angry, upset or anxious?

“Barking dogs do not breathe deeply.” Jo-Ann Downey (me)

Practice When it’s Easy

Examples of when it may be easier to practice include:

  • when you first wake up
  • in the shower
  • driving
  • on an airplane, bus, subway or train
  • taking a walk
  • sitting in a meeting at work
  • doing a hobby
  • waiting for appointments
  • standing in line

Please refer to “2 Essential Guidelines to Create a New Habit” and “Practice When it’s Easy” for additional tips.

Breathing Habits from Others

Be careful not to pick up the breathing habits of others.   Be aware if someone is breathing in a shallow or rapid fashion.  It’s easy to unconsciously mirror their behavior, so be careful.  On the other hand, if you are breathing deeply and fully, they may just follow your lead.

Very Smart Girls know that Breathing is Not an Option, so breathe for your highest benefit.

photo credit: Wooooody

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