In this 3 part series of Get Healthy, we talk about the foundations to good health: breathing, digestion & sleep. Before you read on, understand that all 3 areas are closely linked and can easily affect one another.

Part 1 – Breathing

I know what you are thinking. I breathe, If I didn’t I would die. So why do I need to read on?

Well, It is how you breathe that we want you to become aware of.

Breathing is controlled by the automatic nervous system (ANS), which is then sub divided into the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems.

Parasympathetic Nervous System = REST & DIGEST

Sympathetic Nervous System = FIGHT OR FLIGHT

The way you breathe is a response to which nervous system dominates. Understanding these systems and how your body responds to them, will allow you to assess how you are coping within your current environment.

In our experience, we believe that the majority of city workers spend too much time in fight or flight mode and not enough time in rest and digest mode. Long term this plays havoc with your health. Below is a shortened list of how your body responds to each nervous system:

PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM SYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
REST & DIGEST FIGHT OR FLIGHT
Counterbalance: Restores body to state of calm Body speeds up, becomes more alert, bodily functions not critical to survival shut down
Decreases heart rate Increases heart rate
Muscles relax Muscles contract
Gastrointestinal tract: Increases stomach movement and secretions Gastrointestinal tract: Decreases stomach movement and secretions
Does not release adrenalin Releases adrenalin
Deep, slow breathing Shallow & fast breathing

Fight or Flight Breathing

Short & fast chest breathing is the response of a dominant sympathetic nervous system. This is best demonstrated by Leonardo DiCaprio as he responds to the stress of Black Friday in the film, Wolf of Wall Street. Take note of the shoulder movement associated with chest breathing, a lot of shoulder and neck pain can stem from chest dominant breathing. We will expand on this in another post.

Rest & Digest Breathing

Deep, slow diaphragmatic breathing is key to unlocking the parasympathetic nervous system.

How to implement diaphragmatic breathing:

Visualise filling up the lower part of your lunges, expanding 360 degrees just above your belly button. Tempo should focus on exhaling taking longer than inhaling. Try 3s inhale, 1s pause, 5s exhale with a 1s pause.

Periodically throughout the day be mindful of how you breathe. If you feel that you are getting tense, anxious and not coping with what the day is throwing at you. Then take 5 minutes and implement the breathing strategies above.

Any questions about this post please get in contact.