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Breathing For Better Health
Did you know that how you breathe can profoundly affect your energy level, your thinking, your general health, and even your relationships with others? Too many of us are shallow breathers, sitting slumped at our desks or crunched into our sofas or easy chairs … all while our bodies and brains are starving for increased oxygen! Consider some of the benefits of better breathing:
- The heart receives more oxygen and works with greater efficiency, improving circulation throughout the body.
- Muscular tension is reduced.
- The digestive and immune systems are enhanced.
- Better circulation to the brain results in clearer thinking, improved concentration, and greater creativity.
- Powerful neurochemicals, such as endorphins, are released in the brain, leading to an improved mood (here’s where relationships benefit).
- Stress and anxiety are lessened.
- The body’s energy level and endurance is increased.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Research has shown that proper breathing can even have a positive impact—to some degree—on such conditions as asthma, COPD, and congestive heart failure. That’s pretty amazing and shows how powerful and healing correct breathing can be. Here are some ways you can start breathing right today and reap the exhilarating benefits of improved respiration:
- Improve your posture. Especially when you’re sitting, give your ribcage room to expand.
- Learn to “belly breathe.” (You might need to lie on your back at first to get the hang of it.) Do some controlled breathing exercises. For example, inhale deeply for four seconds, then exhale slowly for four seconds; practice for a few minutes at a time.
- Spend more time outside. Unless you live in a polluted city or near a busy highway, the air outside is generally much cleaner than indoor air.
- When you can’t go out, ventilate your home. Open the windows when the weather is nice, but even when it isn’t so nice, cracking a window will give you fresher, healthier air to breathe.
- Keep some live plants in your home. Plants are great air purifiers.
- Minimize pollutants, indoors and out. Don’t allow people to smoke in your home. Change to non-toxic cleaning and personal care products. If you need to use a product that calls for ventilation, do it outside whenever possible. Consider using a HEPA air cleaner in your home. Replace filters often in your central air/heating unit. If possible, buy HEPA bags for your vacuum cleaner. Test your house for radon. If you use gas heat, install a carbon monoxide alarm.
But one of the best ways to increase your oxygen intake is through aerobic exercise. Be sure to exercise away from traffic and preferably with trees nearby (trees are great oxygen factories). There are so many exercise choices too:
swimming, rock climbing, tennis, skating, running, cycling, gardening—the list is endless. Walking, the most popular aerobic exercise, is one of the best and is an excellent choice for most people. Remember, it can take time to conquer old habits and form new ones, so don’t get discouraged. Just keep working to bump up your oxygen intake and you can breathe easier, knowing you’re doing something great for your body temple!