Breathing is something we all do without even thinking about it. It’s an automatic process of our body to keep us alive and healthy. The way that you breathe can impact vital bodily functions such as heart rate and blood pressure. Your posture also has a lot to do with how you breathe, and sitting in the wrong position can obstruct your airways. If you suspect that your well-being may be affected by the way you breathe, this is what you can expect to happen.
Mouth Breathing Restricts Your Air
Breathing through your mouth is only beneficial when you have overexerted yourself physically. Your muscles and body need oxygen after a workout, so breathing through your mouth helps to increase the amount of air that you take in. The only other time that breathing through your mouth should be allowed is if your nose is blocked from an allergy or the flu. The problem with breathing through your mouth is that you can get a sore, scratchy throat.
Your nose is designed to take air in and your nose hairs protect you from inhaling debris that could make you sick. By breathing only through your mouth, you are taking potentially germ-infested air directly into your body without any barriers to protect you from harmful substances. Air can also be too cold if directly inhaled which can irritate your lungs and respiratory system.
Breathing from the Nose
When babies are born, they don’t have fully developed respiratory systems, so they only breathe through their noses. As we age, we start to breathe through our mouths; however, this is not entirely natural. Your nasal passages have been specially designed to purify and warm the air that you inhale. The lungs and other passageways were created specifically for this reason.
People with asthma, bronchitis or COPD need to make concerted efforts to only breathe through their nose. Any air can severely worsen those conditions if there are toxic chemicals. Other life changing benefits of breathing through your nose include optimized oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. Breathing through your nose allows your body to expel just the right amount of CO2. Mouth breathing causes you to exhale more air at a higher rate. This can cause a reduction of CO2 in your body which leads to hyperventilation and light-headedness.
Chest Breathing Restricts Your Lungs
You’ve probably heard that you need to breathe with your diaphragm and not your chest. This isn’t just a tip, but a necessity. If you watch a baby breathing you will see that their stomachs expand and rise, not their chests. The problem with breathing from your chest is that, as you age, it can put more pressure on your lungs. You will start to take shorter breaths because you are not inhaling sufficient air at one time. Breathing with your chest also only allows air to reach the top of the lungs, not the entire organ. Over time, this weakens your respiratory system where you can develop other health conditions.
Tips for Better Breathing
If you experience any of these breathing issues, incorporate the following tips. To start, place your hands on your stomach and try to push them out by taking a deep breath. If your hands aren’t moving much then you’re breathing from your chest. The easiest way to reset your breathing habits is to count every breath. It sounds cumbersome, but once you get used to it you will be breathing that way without even thinking about it. Each time you breathe in, count for five seconds and then hold your breath. Slowly exhale for another counted five seconds.
With enough practice, you will teach your body to revert to the natural processes you were born with. For now, you will have to breathe manually until you can form the proper habits. The way you breathe can affect your mental function as much as your physical functions, since you may not be getting enough oxygen in to keep your brain functioning optimally. This leads to mental fog and decreased cognitive ability.
Breathing is such a normal, automatic part of our lives that we never stop to think that we may be damaging our health. It’s important to keep an eye on simple bodily functions such as this, and if you notice any of the warning signs, such as shallow breathing or you feel you cannot inhale enough, then you need to address your breathing rate. If you have respiratory issues already, it’s even more critical that you look at the way you breathe and take the necessary steps to correct the problem.