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How to Breathe Properly – A (Surprisingly Important) Complete Guide

by
Patrik Edblad
|

Did you know that your regular breathing pattern very likely is screwing up your body and its functions in a bunch of different ways?

Yup. Without knowing it, you might be messing up your sleep, mood, digestion, heart, nervous system, muscles, brain, and even the development of your teeth and face structure. Yikes!

On the flip side are all the benefits to be had from learning how to breathe correctly. These include more energy, better health, decreased anxiety, less fear, better relationships, and just a happier life in general.

Sounds pretty good, right? Let’s investigate what proper breathing is and how you can use it to optimize your health, well-being, and performance.

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Proper Breathing

Correct breathing means you breathe in a way that is physiologically optimal for your body. It’s the way you were designed to breathe, only you were never taught how to.

If you’re like most people, your breathing pattern likely has some issues like, for example, over-breathing, chest breathing, and holding your breath.

Breathing habits like these lead to a shortage of oxygen and energy and are very stressful to the body.

The solution to these issues is to become aware of the way you breathe and then consciously reshape these patterns.

Let’s have a closer look at why this is so important.

The Consequences of Sucking at Breathing

Poor breathing habits can give rise to a lot of unexpected adverse effects. Some of the most crucial ones being:

Every single process in the body is dependent on oxygen. Some of our most work-intensive organs are:

Now, there are plenty more ways that poor breathing affects our bodies, including crooked teeth and “craniofacial abnormalities” but I won’t go into more depth here. I’m sure you get the point: Proper breathing is important.

The 5 Simple Principles of Proper Breathing

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:

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. Here are a few examples:

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.

2. Analyze Your Breathing Habits

To change something, you first need to become aware of what needs to be changed. So, pay attention to how you breathe in these different situations.

What’s your breath like at different times throughout the day? How does it change as your mental state changes? How do you breathe when you’re focused? Angry? Stressed? Driving? Watching TV? And so on.

Try to figure out when your breathing patterns are suboptimal and why it happens.

3. Adjust Your Breathing

Finally, adjust your breathing habits like this:

Take a moment right now to adjust your breathing, and it will be much easier to remember how to do it later. It can be helpful to put memorize these four keywords:

Nose → Exhale → Proud → Relax.

Super-Quick Summary

Thanks for reading — you take my breath away! 😏

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Footnotes

  1. Craniofacial abnormalities

This article was inspired by and based on The Power of Your Breath by Anders Olsson.