In the last habit, you learned how you could be making yourself sick every time you apply that lotion or use that shampoo. I hope you took a few minutes to read the labels of your most-used products to see if they had any of these harmful chemicals or misleading labels.
Next up, in Habit #5, let’s talk about that thing you’re doing right now that could be increasing your stress levels: your shallowed breathing.
YOUR SHALLOWED BREATHING IS RAISING YOUR STRESS LEVELS
Did you get cut off during your commute today? Do you regularly have “work fires”? Are you about to have a crucial conversation or critical meeting?
Have you ever noticed what happens to your body when these situations occur?
Your breath becomes shallowed.
Your body goes into “Fight or Flight” mode.
A natural physiological response when you get stressed (or anticipate stress) is for our breathing to become shallow.
It’s this shallow breath triggers to your body that something is about to happen, and we need to “buckle up” and get ready our defenses in place – our heart starts pumping blood to our core, our digestion slows down, our cortisol levels increase to protect us.
BUT, WHAT ABOUT YOUR BREATH THE REST OF THE TIME?
Most of us are not breathing full deep breaths when we’re simply “being” – sitting at our desk, reading emails, talking on the phone – rather we are breathing with a shallow breath almost all the time.
What’s surprising is what this shallow breath is doing to your body:
Even though you are not currently in nor anticipating to be in a stressful situation, this shallow breath is actually signaling to your body to trigger the same defensive shields as if you were in a heated argument or accident.
WHEN’S THE LAST TIME YOU TOOK A BIG DEEP BREATH?
Take a big deep breath right now. Did you feel an immediate sense of relaxation?
Experts have argued that part of the relaxing effect of cigarette smoking is not just the nicotine, but also the simple act of big deep inhales and a mindful pause from the day.
Now, I’m in no way saying you that you should start smoking to reduce your stress levels! There is a better way to take your body out of its constant state of “fight or flight” mode.
To get your stress levels and cortisol down, you need to remember to breathe real, deep breaths.
Breathing has been found to impact overall physiology and health, beyond increasing relaxation – it affects our immune system, your brain, your heart, and even your digestion.
BE A HABIT SHIFTER IN 4-7-8:
My favorite breathing technique is the 4-7-8 exercise from Dr. Andrew Weil, also known as the Relaxing Breath. It is very effective, takes almost no time to do, and can be done literally anywhere, e.g. at your desk, in your car, at the airport, you name it.
How to Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Method:
Dr. Weil demonstrates his 4-7-8 breathing technique below:
I hope you’ll try this stress-reducing technique the next time that “work fire” starts up or you get cut off in traffic.
Next up in Habit #6: we’re going to chat about the thing you need to be counting, and it’s not calories or pounds.
Track this new habit:
Check off this habit in your Healthy Habits Tracker (download yours for free here).