Do you know what's behind your breathing? Did you know laughing might help? Discover all the ways you can improve your health by learning how to breathe smarter.
Why do we breathe?
Breathing is your body’s motor. The body needs energy to function and it draws a large part of it from the oxygen you breathe.
When you breathe air into your lungs, your diaphragm contracts to make room for your chest, which inflates to give the air as much room as possible. When you exhale, all your muscles relax and your chest lowers.
When air reaches your lungs, the blood there is carrying large amounts of carbon dioxide that your body must eliminate. The oxygen-laden air that enters your lungs through your windpipe goes to your bronchial tubes, and then travels to your lung alveoli. This is where the exchange happens—between the oxygen-rich air you breathe in and CO2 that is then expelled from your body as you breathe out.
Breathing is vital and is automatically controlled by your brain. Most of the time, we do not think about our breathing, so controlling it requires concentration.
How to breathe properly
Even if we don’t necessarily control our breathing, we can make it as efficient as possible. Good breathing ensures that your muscles and organs are supplied with enough oxygen to function optimally. By being attentive to your breathing, you will be able to relax more easily, fight stress and anxiety, aid digestion, and even fill up with energy by stimulating your blood circulation and supplying it with greater quantities of oxygen. Give the following a try to enhance your blood oxygen levels:
- Relax your shoulders backward, arch your torso, stand up straight, open your chest, and facilitate the passage of air through your body by opening your lungs wide.
- Breathe deeply. We generally use only a third of our breathing capacity. Thus, by inflating the belly on inhalation and deflating it on exhalation, we completely empty our lungs and are ready to refill them.
- Breathing is a powerful tool to relax, especially by practicing cardiac coherence, a relaxation technique that can improve your heart rate by focusing on your breathing rate.
How to take care of your breath
You’ve understood that breathing is essential for a long and healthy life. Here’s how to take the right steps to keep your lungs healthy:
- Exercise regularly. Stimulating your muscles greatly increases your lung capacity because they require more oxygen. Physical activity strengthens your muscles, lungs, and heart. Practice an endurance activity (running, active walking, swimming, cycling…) about 5 days a week for 30 to 60 minutes according to the WHO recommendations, and do not hesitate to use an activity tracker to measure your efforts and monitor your progress.
- The quality of the air you breathe is also important! Regularly open windows to ventilate your home for at least 10 minutes twice a day. Limit the use of toxic products (such as cleaning or gardening products) or ventilate well after use and, of course, stop smoking. Or maybe you should get into nature and take a hike.
- Try breathing with your nose rather than your mouth because the nose is full of mucous membranes that slightly “filter” the air entering your lungs and prevent certain dust or bacteria from entering your body.
- One last piece of advice: Some health professionals recommend laughter and singing to improve lung capacity and develop respiratory muscles. Plus, as an added bonus, singing can even promote hormonal balance beneficial to overall health.