How often have you fantasized about having a superpower, enabling you to save others, win a race or at least escape embarrassing situations you got yourself into?
Wouldn’t it be wicked to fly like Superman 🦸♂️ , time travel like Cable, be invisible like Sue Storm 🦸🏻♀️ or heal like Wolverine?
I have good news for you: You were born with a marvelous superpower – your breath.
Your breathing may rather seem like an invisible and trivial necessity to you, rather than a sensational gift. But it is one of the greatest tools to transform your body and mind.
If even Navy SEALS use breathwork to help them focus and calm before a battle, a mental health warrior like you should give it a try, too. Let’s dig into why breathing matters and how you can make it work for yourself.
Powered By Your Breath 🎈
You’ve been breathing around 23’000 breaths a day since your first liberating cry when entering the world. Although most of your inhales and exhales might have since happened without your conscious effort, you are actually powered by your breath. Your lungs breathe in air, then absorb your body’s life-sustaining gas, oxygen. It is then sent through your bloodstream into your organs, allowing you to move, talk, think, rest and digest. But wait…
Why bother about intentional breathing if your body does it automatically anyway?
Your past experiences with trauma, stress, anxiety, and working hunched over a computer or spending hours scrolling on your mobile phone affect how you breathe. Your previously natural breathing patterns become maladaptive over time. Since this usually happens in tiny steps, you most likely never noticed the change. If you experience stress on a daily basis due to nerve-racking traffic, a toxic boss or work overload, you may even be headed towards a chronic condition. You may also know the “tired but wired” feeling where the body is drained of energy but overly stimulated at the same time 🤯.
That’s where your breathing patterns can make all the difference, because they can keep your daily stress levels in check. Breathing impacts the health of your entire body via two command centers: the endocrine and the nervous system.
Know Your Command Centers 🧠
Your body has a center, where it makes hormones, the body’s chemical messengers. They carry information and commands from one set of cells to the other, ensuring that your organs and body functions do a good job. It’s called your endocrine system.
The command center of your body is the nervous system. Coming from your brain, it controls your thoughts, movements and automatic responses to the world around you. Other body systems and processes, such as digestion, breathing and sexual development are also controlled via that command center.
Once you learn to use intentional breathing, you can make yourself calm down whenever you need it. Think of it as triggering the fight-or-flight response 😰 to switch off and triggering the rest-and-digest response 😌 to switch on. The quickest and easiest way to destress or reduce anxiety starts with breathing in and breathing out.
3 Simple Ways To Get Started ⏩
- Belly breathing: When you’re stressed, your breathing migrates from the belly, where a relaxed breath originates, to the upper chest. Chest breathing is shallow and keeps you feeling continuously on edge. By intentionally breathing from the belly, your body’s braking system, the parasympathicus, is activated. It is responsible for relaxing the body by reducing heart rate, respiration, stress hormone levels and blood pressure.
- Make your exhale longer than your inhale: This is a simple rule of thumb that sends your body into rest-and-digest mode. In combination with belly breathing, you’ll soon feel the effect. The deeper and slower you breathe, the calmer you’ll feel.
- Breathe while walking: To overcome stressed and shallow breathing patterns, try to synchronize it with movement, specifically walking. Take 2 steps with your inhale and 2-4 steps with your exhale. If this is too fast for you, make it 4 steps during your inhale and 4-8 steps during your exhale. Focusing on the rhythm will also help you to let go of worries and rumination.
The best thing about breathwork is that you can do it anywhere and anytime: while commuting, before sleeping, even at your desk. People take cigarette breaks all the time, so you can take a breathing break.
Hit The Breathing Gym! 💪🏽
Let’s try it out right now, with one of the Navy SEALS most used breathing exercises, box breathing! Breathe along with the video below or download the free Earkick app and look for “box breathing” in the content section. You can
- adjust the speed and repetitions of the exercise
- pause it anytime
- follow it visually, via audio, via touch -whatever suits your situation best.
The preset time is 1 minute and you will start to feel calmer within that minute.
How to practice box breathing 🔲
- Open the exercise in the Earkick app or set a timer for 1-5 minutes
- Sit in a chair with your feet flat or on the floor with a straight spine
- Close your eyes and exhale to start the exercise
⬆️ Inhale for a count of four.
➡️ Hold your breath for a count of four.
⬇️ Exhale for a count of four.
⬅️ Hold for a count of four.
- Repeat until the alarm sounds or the exercise in the app ends
Ready to use breathing, the powerful weapon 🏹 in your healthcare arsenal? Head over to the app store and download Earkick to help you train your superpower!
At Earkick we are building a free anxiety tracker to follow our great mission in order to make the wold a less anxious place.