The Daily Break: Get Good At This ONE Thing First

*To preface this article, keep the following thought in your mind’s eye: breathing is directly impacted by stress and if we don’t learn to change a few aspects of our breathing we can be harming our ability to recover from stress in a MAJOR way.  

The issues at hand…

Your body is designed to make your breathing short and shallow when you are perceiving a threat. Threats can be physical, chemical, and emotional/mental stressors.

Do you want to know what you can do to feel better more often? I know there are people who feel sick, tired, and like their brain just isn’t working well.  I hear daily of people with brain fog, attention deficits, stress-related symptoms, and unhealthy weight and movement patters.

Here is the truth: you don’t need to do much of anything.  In fact, you only need to get really good at ONE thing to start.

Breathing for your brain

Everyone can create a healthy brain state immediately by getting a grip on proper breathing technique. The following exercise can help you regularly reduce pain, increase positive moods, destroy the afternoon energy slump, and actually change your brain function IMMEDIATELY. 1 

At your desk right now, you can try this:

  1. Sit down in your chair with your lower back against the chair, shoulder blades relaxed.
  2. Lift your mid/upper back off the chair towards your desk (so you’re not leaning back into your chair.) Briefly press down very slightly into the ground with your feet, then relax so your posture feels controlled and easy. You should be sitting “tall”.
  3. Take a slow and deep belly breath in for about 3 seconds, hold for 1 second, and release slowly for 6-7 seconds. It’s best to stare at a second hand or timer when you first start, as the timing is very important. It’s important to take it easy when first experimenting with proper breathing, as it may feel uncomfortable.  Ease into it.

Clinical Pearl: when you do a “belly breath” you should feel the area below your belly button fall forward during inhalation. An advanced tip is to reach behind you and place a hand on the small of your back and feel for expansion and movement towards the backrest of your chair while your breathing in. You should be able to put pressure on your hand in back WHILE letting your tummy fall forward in the front.

Repeat this breathing pattern for 4 -6 minutes

Once you have stopped this breathing exercise, sit at your chair for a minute or two, grab a sip of water, and make sure you aren’t light-headed or dizzy.  Once you have established your safety, get up (slowly) and take a little walk around the room.  Stretch a bit and try to focus on how you feel after doing the breathing.  When you get back to your desk, take a seat (or even better, STAND!) and assume your new breathing posture.

Take Aways:

  1.  If you have completed up to 4 minutes of this exercise, you will have changed your brain state to produce more Alpha brain waves, which will shift your body into a more calm and focused state.
  2. If you feel this exercise was difficult for you or produced a feeling of light-headedness, you should only practice this while seated or laying down.  You know your body better than anyone else, trust yourself to practice this often and safely and your system will improve. Quite quickly you should notice an improvement. Even the most skilled “breathers” still need to practice often.

Fine-tune your focus and take the Daily Break.

Academic Sources:

  1. Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system.
  2. Appearance of high-frequency alpha band with disappearance of low-frequency alpha band in EEG is produced during voluntary abdominal breathing in an eyes-closed condition
  3. Theta activity and meditative states: spectral changes during concentrative meditation

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