The Importance of Deep Breathing
Although breathing may seem like a mundane task to most of us, deep breathing offers many health benefits including the reduction of stress and support of the immune system.
Deep breathing can do wonders for stress and anxiety. When we are stressed or experiencing anxiety, our breathing will often turn into quick shallow breaths known as costal breathing. Costal breathing is classified as shallow breathing using the intercostal muscles of the ribs. Deep breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, actually slows down the heart and can stabilize or even lower blood pressure. As your muscles relax after a deep breath, your blood vessels dilate, improving circulation and potentially lowering blood pressure. Unfortunately, the majority of us tend to engage in shallow breathing throughout the day, and it seems that diaphragmatic breathing takes conscious effort to participate in. Diaphragmatic breathing involves fully engaging your abdominal muscles and diaphragm and helps the lungs to fill fully before exhaling.
Deep breathing can also help calm your body down after a stressful situation by increasing the amount of oxygen flowing to your brain. Deep breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which oversees the body’s rest and digestion response. The parasympathetic nervous system is in charge of decreasing respiration and heart rate after being in a stressful state.
If you are stressed or anxious, it can also be helpful to focus on deep breathing. Focusing on your breath can serve as a useful distraction from intrusive or stressful thoughts, and bring your attention toward your body and your breathing pattern.
Reducing stress has a significant impact on the body’s immune system. The quality of sleep we get, the nutrients we consume, and the ability to rest and repair from day to day activities are all enhanced when we are not constantly stressed out.
Breathing deeply can also help the body respond naturally to infection. With deep breathing, the blood is oxygenated to the fullest extent, carrying and absorbing nutrients and vitamins throughout the body more effectively than with shallow breaths. A body with a strong immune system will have a better chance of fighting off viruses and pathogens and preventing serious illness.
We may think of breathing as a mundane task we must perform in order to survive, but when done consciously and deeply, breathing has many additional health benefits.