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World Breathing Day

April 11, 2023 2 min read

World Breathing Day

Did you know that today is World Breathing Day? That's right, a whole day dedicated to the simple act of breathing. But it's not just any old breath - it's the deep, intentional kind that has so many benefits for our physical and mental health.

We get Sam the scientist to weigh in on how important he believes breathing is for overall health and wellbeing.  

Research shows that deep breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain. What this means is that slow, deep breathing stimulates the vagus nerve, which runs from the brain to the abdomen and is in charge of turning off the “fight or flight” reflex.

The vagus nerve uses the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which activates the “relaxation” response of your parasympathetic nervous system to calm you down.

So even in situations where you have been left feeling overwhelmed, you can achieve a sense of calm, through your breath by doing the following for five minutes: 

- Sit with your back straight but relaxed

- Breathe at your normal pace and frequency.

- Then, start to deepen your breath. Deep breathing involves slowly inhaling through your nose, perhaps to the count of five, really allowing your chest and lower belly to rise as you fill your lungs. Let your abdomen expand fully.

- Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth (or your nose) again to the count of five. After each deep breath, you will begin to feel more balanced. This deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange, which slows the heartbeat and lowers or stabilizes your blood pressure. This is particularly important if you are feeling anxious, angry or stressed out by a difficult interaction.

Thankfully again, the plasticity of the brain allows it to mould and change as you practice deep breathing. Eventually, you can train yourself to handle stress more effectively and avoid its negative effects. Breathing controls the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system - your fight or flight and your rest and relaxation states.

This means it allows you to be flexible and respond to demands around you. Increasing the length of your inhale can increase adrenalin production and make you feel more alert and switched on. Whereas lengthening the exhale can relax the body.

You can take control of your breath whenever you want and use it as a tool to control your entire physiology and the way your body and brain function. It is a remarkable tool.

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