We talk a lot about what we “need” in our everyday lives. We need a nicer phone, faster internet, and the next episode of our favorite podcast. But sometimes, it pays to get back to the basics of what we really need. And no, we’re not just talking about food and water. You can last a few days without those. But you won’t last five minutes without a full breath of air.
However, we take breathing for granted. We don’t even notice it most of the time, and when we do, we become incredibly uncomfortable. But it’s good to notice your breathing from time to time. Consider these simple practices that can help you breathe better.
Deep Breathing Exercises
Most of us know exercises that target our heart will improve our breathing, but what about exercises that target the lungs themselves? Deep breathing helps train us to take deeper breaths. Here are a few strategies you can try:
- Put your hand on your stomach and breathe deeply enough for your stomach to go in and out.
- Breathe deeply through one nostril, keeping the other covered. After a few moments, switch and breathe deeply through the other.
- Try taking a deep breath for four seconds, holding it for four seconds, and then exhaling for four seconds. Repeat.
But you don’t have to think of an exercise as working out. Everyday activities can act as breathing exercises, too. If you have kids, try taking them outside and play with bubbles. Have a contest for who can blow the most bubbles in a single breath. Or you can always brush up on your singing skills with some karaoke in your car.
If you’ve ever practiced performance art or public speaking, you’ve heard a director or coach harp about using your diaphragm. Your diaphragm contracts and expands, creating a pressure vacuum that pulls air into the lungs. When we have poor posture, we don’t give our diaphragm the space it needs to do its job. Not to mention, bad posture breeds muscle stiffness, which also makes our lungs’ lives harder.
You don’t have to go to charm school to improve your posture. Most of the time, it just takes awareness of how you’re sitting or standing. You can also make your environment more conducive to good posture by rearranging your desk or adjusting your car seat. A trip to the chiropractor will also go a long way toward helping you stand a little taller.
Breathing well isn’t just about your body. When we’re anxious or stressed, we often take shallow breaths, which aren’t great for our health. One of the simplest practices to help your breathing involves taking the time to relax. And if you’re having trouble, the deep breathing exercises we mentioned earlier may help trick your body into settling down.