How many times have we heard parents say this to their child when they are worked up or emotional? Well there is some merit in this advice!
Breathing is one of the only autonomic functions (you don’t have to consciously think about doing it, eg: heart beating) of the body that can also be controlled and altered at will.
The lungs are covered in lots of nerves. Every inhale activates our sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight/freeze) and every exhale activates our parasympathetic nervous system (rest/digest). Taking even breaths means that we will have balance between the two.
Research and traditional practices suggest that the perfect breath is 5.5 seconds in, 5.5 seconds out which equals 5.5 breaths per minute totalling 5.5 litres of air into the body. However, most of us breathe much faster than this and spend more time inhaling, especially if we are living a fast-paced lifestyle.
There is also a lot of research to suggest that not all breaths are equal. Mouth breathing has been shown to increase blood pressure, reduce heart rate variability, increase sinus infections and raise stress hormone levels. Our mouth was meant to be the back-up system because our body was not meant to breathe unfiltered air long term. Our nose was designed to filter molecules and microbes from our lungs as well as warm and humidify the air ready for oxygen/carbon dioxide exchange.
The goal is to breathe evenly every day, however, to get you started, here is an exercise you can practice daily or during times of stress.
1.Inhale slowly through the nose to a count of 4 2.Hold for a count of 4 3.Exhale slowly through the nose to a count of 4 (or more) 4.Repeat until you feel your heat rate slow down