Is it possible to measure excellent health without the ability to track or quantify progress? Many people like to focus on carb counting, caloric intake, steps per day, or how many hours of sleep they can log. These things are measurable components of health, but managing stress may not be so easy to measure. People can bottle it up, ignore it, or hide their stress, which can chip away at overall health.
High stress levels can increase the risk of depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, weak immune function, and heart disease. It’s not healthy for the body to be in a constant “fight or flight” state, also known as the stress response. This is how the body responds when it’s time to confront or avoid danger. Stress response can be beneficial, but it can suppress immune function and contribute to anxiety or heart disease when constantly provoked.
In the 1970s, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School used a technique to establish the body’s relaxation response. This is a profound state of rest that you can achieve through various practices, including yoga, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation. Breath focus is another common practice to help evoke the relaxation response. The first step to get there is learning the art of deep breathing. Continue reading to learn other potential ways deep breathing can benefit the body.
Help Manage Depression Symptoms
When the body is in a constant state of stress, other components of your health suffer. Chronic stress can disrupt your normal breathing rhythm, which can contribute to mental health conditions like anxiety or depression. When you engage in mindful breathing exercises like deep breathing, you help to rebalance the breath system. A 2017 study monitored 20 participants who practiced diaphragmatic breathing over the course of eight weeks. The results showed that every participant reduced the level of cortisol (the stress hormone) and had a reduction in depression symptoms.
Improve Stress Management
If you can manage stress, do you win at life? Some people agree that stress management is the key to optimal health. Deep breathing is one of the most efficient ways to reduce stress, because it works to minimize the way the brain perceives stress. Once you know how breathe deeply, you can use this technique during times of heightened stress. It’s helpful to hit the pause button every now and then, breathe deeply, and emerge as a less-stressed version of yourself.
An intense workout can take a toll on the body. In fact, it may even take you more than a day to recover! While stretching, foam rolling, and movement can help accelerate the recovery process, a lesser-known recovery tool is deep breathing. Sports experts found that deep breathing may help improve the way the body responds to demanding forms of exercise. It can acclimate the body to more intense workouts, while simultaneously reducing the risk of injury. You may also find that deep breathing after a workout can help the body recover more efficiently.
Reduce Severity Of Hot Flashes
According to several studies, women in menopause with high levels of cortisol have a greater risk of hot flashes. Hot flashes are one of the hallmark symptoms of menopause, and they are quick feelings of heat that are most intense on the chest, face, and neck. Although research is limited, some evidence indicates that deep breathing may reduce the severity of hot flashes. It’s beneficial to practice about six to eight breaths per minute for the best results.
Improve Lung Health
If you’re looking for a non-pharmaceutical way to boost lung health, deep breathing exercises can be highly beneficial. People with COPD or asthma have a greater chance of experiencing hyperventilation, reduced lung function, or lower quality of life. Many COPD rehabilitation programs, diaphragmatic breathing (a form of deep breathing) is taught to help improve oxygen levels and aid lung function. In addition to diaphragmatic breathing, pursed lip breathing is also a beneficial exercise to help people with COPD.
Deep breathing takes time to perfect, so be patient in your initial practices. Start off slowly and don’t try to do it when you are breathless.