How does shallow breathing impact your life

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Stopping to smell the roses is a phrase we are all familiar with. While this may sound fantastic, albeit dated, life advice, it may also be too big of an ask in today’s society, where the majority of us don’t even take the time to breathe the way we should.

Breathing is second nature for many of us; it’s one of the few side effects of being alive—one that we rely on the most and most take for granted. 

Much like the other biological processes we take for granted, we often aren’t aware of the damage we do to ourselves when we stop being conscious of the way we operate. The way you breathe depends on so many factors that may or may not be in your control.  

Taking deep breaths, in particular, is a piece of advice that’s meant to calm our frazzled or racing mind. Whether it’s panic, stress, anxiety or fear, the phrase ‘take a deep breath’ is a quick, inexpensive fix that helps you take a step back and regain control over your thoughts.  

This means that even the way we think about deep breathing is different to the way we usually breathe, i.e. shallow breathing.  

It is also very symptomatic of life in this modern, fast-paced society. We fall into a rhythm of shallow breathing far more often than taking deep breaths. This can be pinned down to a bunch of factors including constantly overriding our emotions and stifling them.  

Taking the time to analyse how you breathe, why you breathe the way you do and to understand how shallow breathing may be impacting your mental and physical health is the first step.  

Then, take the necessary steps to develop a practice of deep breathing and give yourself greater control over your life and wellbeing. 

Shallow breathing: what does it mean?

When you choose shallow breathing over taking deep breaths, you trick your body into believing you are in a constant state of stress. 

The insidious impact of shallow breathing doesn't end there, though. When your body becomes accustomed to shallow breathing and makes it a habit, your body also makes stress a habitual part of life.  

Shallow breathing can also affect your diaphragm’s range of motion, which impacts the lower section of your lungs and prevents smaller blood vessels from getting their full share of oxygenated air. This can result in anxiety or shortness of breath.  

The full impact of shallow breathing on your respiration is clear when you compare it to the benefits of a full oxygen exchange through deep abdominal breathing. Deep breathing can slow your heartbeat and lower and stabilise your blood pressure too. 

Is your breathing shallow?

Becoming aware of shallow breathing really means that you need to be more mindful of your breathing. This mindful awareness of your breathing is a kind of meditation that’s popular among some of the most experienced mindful practitioners.  

Some of its popularity comes down to the fact that it doesn’t require any particular practices, circumstances or conditions to be practiced meaningfully.  

The mindfulness of breathing, with its easy accessibility and effectiveness, has been a popular meditation technique for millennia. It is also considered an easy way to develop a mindfulness practice and begin a long-term meditation habit.   

To begin, here are six quick questions you need to ask yourself to figure out what your breathing style is: 

  1. Where do you breathe? Unlock your awareness of your entire body. Tune into bodily movements that are associated with the process of inhalation and exhalation. Where are these movements the clearest and most obvious to you? Is it focussed in your belly? Midriff? Throat? Head or anywhere else in your body? Follow where these movements are the strongest.
  2. Where does your breathing go? Movement travels, and anything that travels does so in a certain direction. In what direction do your inhalation and exhalation travel? Are they vertical or horizontal? Do they curve or travel in straight lines? Do they contract or expand? Do they form shapes?
  3. How long is your breathing? Assuming that there is movement in the process of breathing, one would be inhalation and the other would be exhalation. Is the length of time you spend inhaling longer, shorter or equal in length to the time you spend exhaling?
  4. How clear is your breathing? Are your inhalation movements clearer, less clear, or equally clear to your exhalation movements? Are they both obscure? 
  5. Where are the boundaries of your breathing? Can you distinguish between the beginning and the end of the movement associated with inhalation or exhalation? Are you missing sections of this process, and if so, which parts are missing?
  6. Are you interfering with your breathing? In the process of trying to zero in on your awareness of your breathing and the work your body puts into a series of inhalations and exhalations, do you feel any mental strain? Do you feel tension anywhere in your body? Do you find yourself interfering with your breathing in any way? If any of these things are true for you, step away and relax. The key, here, is to watch your movement. If you can’t seem to stop interfering with your breathing, consider if it’s your mind getting in the way.

Becoming more familiar with the processes and rhythm of your body and its movement will boost your self-awareness. It will also help you come to terms with your breathing and understand how to deepen it and enjoy the benefits of breathing from your diaphragm.

How can Awakened Mind help you deepen your shallow breathing?  

Once you recognise your shallow breathing, it’s easier for you to consciously and mindfully take deeper breaths.  

At Awakened Mind, we understand the value of being attuned to your body and maintaining your awareness of your sensory experience. 

Explore our Learning Center, our library of guided meditation tracks, and Neurosync™ technology on the Awakened Mind app today!