When you ask people about the things that bring them happiness, they will often tell you that it’s a high paying job, a nice home, or an expensive car.
But you’ve probably never heard of anyone answering that it’s a good breathing pattern.
Why would anyone say that?
Well, let me tell you – breathing is your body’s most essential requirement for life. Without oxygen, you would only live a few minutes at most.
Your breath provides oxygen for cellular metabolism and rids you of the waste product carbon dioxide. When breathing correctly, the rhythm of your breath is in direct rhythm with the universe. When you breathe out of tune, you’re going against the flow of the universe. So, to create harmony and balance in your life, you must breath correctly.
Often our breath becomes erratic due to excess stressors in our lives like, working a high paced job, money problems, relationship problems, or illness, to name a few. Any time you are feeling overwhelmed, you are much more likely to be training a faulty breathing pattern.
3 Common Faulty Breathing Patterns
There are three common breathing patterns that should be corrected:
- Hyperventilation breathing – taking quick, short shallow, chest breaths
- Holding your breath – due to anxiety, fear or nervousness.
- Reverse breathing – When you breath in, your belly goes in. When you breathe out, your belly goes out.
Any of these breathing patterns will change up your rhythms and flow, creating a cascade of problems throughout the body, including digestive disturbances, weight gain, and fatigue. All of which would make anyone unhappy.
How do you know if you have a breathing problem?
Try this simple test.
Put one hand on your belly and the other hand on your chest. Now take a deep breath in. (Ideally, you will want to breath in through your nose.)
What happens to your hands? Correct breathing should make the hand on your belly rise first and the hand on your chest rise second. The majority of your air should be going into your lower abdomen, so the ratio should be 2/3 belly and 1/3 chest.
Are you a chest breather? A chest breather will have all of their air going only into their chest and not into their belly.
Did you discover that when you breathed in your belly went in? This is called a reverse breathing pattern, usually caused by stress or fear.
How to Correct a Breathing Problem
How can you correct a breathing problem? Here are a few tips:
1. The Water Bottle Trick
Lie down on the ground and put a small water bottle on your belly. Take a deep breath in and try to make the water bottle go upwards upon your inhale, and downwards upon your exhale. Practice using the water bottle every day for a few minutes to make sure you are breathing correctly. (Watch Ashley Mazurek’s video on breathing better to move better for a demonstration of this.)
2. The Hand Test
Use the hand test that I mentioned above. Check in with yourself when you feel your body under stress. Are you breathing properly? If not, correct it. Practice breathing through your belly for a few minutes until it becomes natural again.
3. Breathing Before Eating
Practice deep belly breathing before eating. When we are stressed out, our body feels that we are under attack. Adrenaline rises and cortisol production increases. This allows us to fight, flee, or freeze in response to whatever we perceive is attacking us. The elevated adrenaline, however, can fool a person into believing that they are feeling fine when they are really burning themselves out.
What’s that got to do with eating?
As part of the fight or flight reaction, the extra adrenaline also shuts down our digestion so that we can run or fight without anything slowing us down. In the long term, the extra cortisol will create inflammation around your midsection. So, if you want to digest your meal without feeling bloated or gassy, take a few deep breaths before eating. This tells the body you are relaxed. And when you rest, you digest!
Who would have thought that breathing may just be the key to happiness?!
When it boils down to it, it really is the simple things in life that make us happy.
A proper breathing pattern will allow you to wake up rested, keep your energy levels balanced throughout the day, decrease your waistline by improving digestion, and slow down your cellular metabolism so that you can live a long, happy life.
So, what are you waiting for?
Take a few deep breaths and grab Dr. Happiness by the horns. It’s easy to do, won’t cost you anything to practice, and will be guaranteed to make you feel better.
Take a deep breath in. Feel your belly rise and then your chest rise. Exhale. Feel your belly contract and your chest drop. Repeat 3 times. I feel better already, do you?
Cheers to your happiness! 🙂