Many people worry about how to breathe better, whether they suffer from asthma or another health condition that affects their breathing, or if they simply recognise the incredible power of breath. Our breath is literally what keeps us alive, and deep, calming breaths have been found to effectively manage anxiety, among other benefits.
This is also one of the key reasons why you should meditate: the practice of breathing while meditating has been recognised by experts to have a range of benefits for both our physical and mental health. However, you don’t need to have a daily meditation practice to realise the benefits of better breathing. There are many ways you can breathe better.
How to breathe better and is it important?
Our breath is critical for our physical health, delivering vital oxygen to the body’s organs, and removing waste and toxins from our bodies. Better breathing makes our bodies stronger, whereas shallow, obstructed or irregular breathing means that we do not get enough oxygen and that toxins are not fully removed from our bodies. This can be damaging to our health in the long term.
Breathing is not just critical for our physical health, but also our emotional wellbeing and general performance. Studies have shown that breathing can help with decision making. This is because taking deep breaths slows down your heart rate, helping to manage stress and making it easier to take well-considered decisions. On the other hand, when we are feeling stressed we are more likely to make impulsive and irrational decisions.
Improve your body posture
It may surprise you, but our breath and our posture are closely linked. Poor posture can make it hard to breathe because this can restrict your lungs and your breath: it is a little like trying to blow up a balloon while someone is sitting on it. Good posture, on the other hand, means that your lungs and airways literally have room to breathe. A study by the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation found that poor posture, including sitting in a chair without adequate support or slouching while standing, greatly impacted on lung capacity and quality of breathing.
One of the best ways to improve posture is to maintain good strength and flexibility in the shoulders and back. Tight or weak muscles can cause your shoulders to slump forward and other posture issues. Regular exercise that includes strength and flexibility training will help you to maintain great posture. Healthy body weight, sleeping on a quality bed and mattress, seeing a chiropractor for spinal adjustment and having regular eye checks to prevent hunching and squinting are also important for maintaining great posture.
Use nasal inhalers
Nasal inhalers are also very helpful in promoting better breathing and therefore improving your physical and emotional wellbeing. Nasal congestion is relatively common. It restricts airflow through the nose and into the lungs and back again. This, in turn, means that less oxygen is brought to different parts of the body and fewer toxins are eliminated.
Inhalers that contain ingredients such as mint and eucalyptus are very effective in unclogging the nose and creating a clear airway, which lets you breathe better. One study found that eucalyptus vapour helped to improve airflow. Other research shows that eucalyptus helps to ease inflammation in the airways as well as removing mucus, allowing air to move more freely from the nose to the lungs. Mint essential oil has a cooling effect that makes it easier to breathe, along with other benefits including soothing a sore throat and being a powerful antiseptic.
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Eat some healthy food
The food that you eat can also greatly impact the quality of your breath. A healthy, balanced diet helps you to have healthy lungs, and certain foods also help you to breathe better. For example, foods that contain antioxidants help to reduce inflammation, therefore keeping your airways as clear as possible and letting you breathe more easily. Foods that are high in antioxidants include blueberries, green tea, garlic, spinach and dark chocolate.
Additionally, certain foods produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) than others as they break down, meaning there is more waste gas that needs to be removed through your airways. Specifically, carbohydrates produce greater amounts of CO2 than other foods, particularly fats. For this reason, the American Lung Association recommends that people with breathing problems eat fewer carbohydrates and more healthy fats to improve their breathing.
Try breathing exercises
Breathing exercises can also be very beneficial and help you to breathe better. Breathing exercises help you to develop diaphragmatic breathing, which studies have shown is very effective in calming our nerves and reducing stress.
This kind of breathing uses the diaphragm, the large muscle that sits at the bottom of our lungs. Using this muscle correctly to breathe is much more beneficial than taking small, shallow breaths that barely use the diaphragm muscle. Breathing exercises help you to strengthen this muscle while getting you accustomed to breathing properly. You do these exercises by lying on your back with your knees bent, placing one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your ribs. Take slow, deep breaths, making sure that the hand on your stomach moves while the hand on your chest moves as little as possible. Tighten your stomach muscles as you exhale, continuing to keep the hand on your chest as still as possible.
Avoid smoking and poor air quality
Toxins and dangerous chemicals in the air we breathe can attack our lungs, making it harder to breathe. These toxins may be a result of pollution in the air, or they could be due to cigarette smoke. The chemicals in cigarette smoke or polluted air can cause the lungs to become inflamed, congested with mucus, and over time, can damage lung tissue.
If you are a smoker and you want to breathe better, quitting is absolutely essential. Likewise, protecting your lungs from pollutants and improving the quality of the air you breathe is critical. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over two million people die early every year because of poor air quality. Improve your air quality by spending as much time outdoors as possible, and making sure your indoor spaces at home and at work are well ventilated and regularly tested for air quality issues.
Start breathing better today
Good quality breath is vital for our physical and emotional health: it allows us to manage stress, perform better in our daily lives and keep our bodies strong and healthy. You can start breathing better today by improving your posture, eating healthier food, doing breathing exercises or improving the quality of the air you breathe. Additionally, try our Arctic Blast nasal inhaler to discover how this improves your breathing and promotes better wellbeing.