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The effect of breathing

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

The way we breathe has a direct effect on the part of our brain responsible for our emotions. This part of the brain is called the amygdala. The amygdala communicates with the hypothalamus which then communicates to the rest of the body through the autonomic nervous system which controls our involuntary body functions like breathing, our heart beat, our blood pressure and the dilation or constriction of blood vessels and the bronchioles, the small airways in the lungs. The autonomic nervous system consists of two parts - the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. When we take short quick breaths through the mouth we stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, located mainly in the area at the top of our lungs. This is responsible for our fight of flight response. When we take deeper breaths through the nose we stimulate the parasympathetic autonomic nervous system, located mainly at the lower area of our lungs, and this supports our gut health, mental health, cardiovascular health and it increases the blood flow to your kidneys and intestines.

From this we can understand how the way we breathe is crucial for physical and mental health. On a physical perspective breathing correctly means better endurance, more oxygen in body, less physical stress, better sleep and less dehydration. Our sinuses, in our nasal passage, produce nitric oxide which is passed into the body through breath and fights harmful bacteria and viruses, regulates blood pressure and boosts the immune system. By breathing in deeply we slow our heart rate which reduces stress and anxiety, and in turn allows us to take better control of our emotions. By just breathing in the correct way, you can change the way you react to situations, your tone of voice, your focus and attention. You can channel your energy better and modify your behaviour. The way we breathe can even change our perception, helping us to see things in a different light – basically giving us the opportunity to see things how they really are.

Image by Image by Bhakti Kulmala

Perhaps if we all took the time to focus on the way we breathe, there would be less conflicts, less rash decisions, less stressed out people, less angry people and less hurt people. We would be able to work through relationship issues better, deal with our children better, be less anxious before a job interview, have better relationships with colleagues at work, be more focussed and more patience.

Imagine if everyone took the time to focus on the way he or she breathes the world would move at a slower, more peaceful pace. If we all just breathed in deeply and slowly, then this might have an effect on the amount of street fights there are; perhaps crimes of passion and abuse would be far lower. It could even effect the level of greed and selfishness than has taken over this world. The world might just be a better place if we all just took the time to breathe correctly.

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