Thrive Series Part 1: Breathe, You’re already healthy!
Have you read one too many of those lists of tips for how to get healthy?
Are you starting to feel like you’ll never get there?
Do you get overwhelmed and give up?
You’re not alone.
“Getting healthy” can sound like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. We can think of getting healthy as something we’ll do when we’re feeling better, when we get that job, when the kids start school or when things start to settle down. Getting healthy starts to feel unattainable, and we start to feel like a failure. But, I’ve got some great news for you.
You are already healthy.
Health isn’t reserved for the skinny. It isn’t reserved for the rich. It isn’t something that will happen in the future. Health is your body being alive, right here and right now. You are healthy.
Those symptoms you’re suffering? That’s your body being healthy, working to defend itself against pathogens. You’ve got approximately 30 trillion of your own cells working as a unit to sustain your life. Plus, you’ve got about another 40 trillion cells in your microbiome working with your own cells to keep things running.
Rather than feeling like we’re never doing enough, let’s try and focus on all the amazing things we are already doing to keep this amazing health system running. You are already doing so much to be healthy without even thinking about it.
I’ll be writing a series of blog posts called “THRIVE” in which I’ll break down the different things we’re already doing to be healthy. I’ll also include pertinent research on ways we can bring awareness and enhance our own efforts.
I’m going to begin with one simple thing our body does to stay alive and a very simple thing you can do to help support that system. It’s all in one word.
Yep. It’s that simple.
We do it all day, every day, about 20,000 times a day, actually. We cannot stop breathing longer than about 3 minutes without serious brain damage. We hardly even think about it, but breathing is the number one thing we can do to not only stay alive but to thrive.
Breathing is simple. It’s an exchange of gases that eliminates carbon dioxide while bringing in oxygen. Take a deep, full breath. Excellent. You just brought in about 100 quintillion oxygen atoms into your lungs and oxygenated all the cells of your body. Well done. You are a health machine.
But did you know that certain types of breathing techniques can impact your entire system in a positive way? It’s pretty amazing, actually. Recent research shows that effective breathing can increase your capacity for physical activity, boost your immune system, and affect your heart, weight, and mood. For those suffering from illnesses such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression and for those dealing with the difficult side effects of cancer and cancer treatments, breathing exercises can make a huge difference.
The breathing method most often studied is a yoga breathing style called pranayama. Pranayama is a sanskrit word for breath (or life force) restraint. Studies have repeatedly shown that practicing a form of pranayama for as little as six weeks can make a big difference on your well-being, your capacity to accomplish what you want to do and ultimately your joy in being alive.
Below you will find instructions on a very simple breathing exercise to practice for a few minutes each day.
You’re already doing such a stellar job at living. Let’s do more than being alive. Let’s thrive!
If you’d like more information about breathing, how respiration works and more breathing techniques, I recommend the following:
Crash Course – Respiratory System, part 1 – This video will help you better understand exactly what is happening when you breathe. Fair warning, once you start watching Crash Course videos, you may never stop!
Dr. Andrew Weil’s three breathing exercises – Dr. Weil provides three different breathing exercises that offer different results: stimulating, relaxing and meditative.
Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review – From the International Journal of Preventative Medicine, a great review of how brreathing techniques impact health