Dr. Mark Hyman is quick to point out that 95% of illness is either caused by or worsened by stress. He also notes the following facts about stress:
- 95 percent of all illness is caused or worsened by stress. Low socioeconomic status is associated with poorer health outcomes and higher risk of death from all causes. This is not because of poor health habits, but because of feelings of powerlessness and loss of control. Internalized racism and stress are associated with high amounts of belly fat.
- - Stress hormones damage the hippocampus — the memory center in the brain — causing memory loss and dementia.
- - In a study of people who volunteered to have cold viruses injected into their noses, only people with a high level of perceived stress got colds. Women with metastatic breast cancer survived twice as long if they were part of a support group.
- - Belonging to a group — a religious group, a bowling club, a quilting group — reduces risk of death from all causes and increases longevity, despite health habits.
- - In a study of doctors, those who scored high on hostility questionnaires had a higher risk of heart attacks than those who smoked, were overweight, had high blood pressure, or didn’t exercise.
As always, I want to talk this week about developing a habit that can profoundly affect your ability to shed stress while breathing deeply. As an added side-benefit, this habit can greatly enhance your athletic performance also.
Importantly, the most important factor involved in this habit (and any habit) is getting started. Check out James Clear's article on getting started.
-Every morning upon waking up and every evening just before going to bed, breathe in deeply and smoothly, holding for 3 seconds at the top and 3 seconds at the bottom. Do this for 2 sets of 10 breaths. Increase the amount of time you are holding the breaths as you improve. That's it.
Now, I do several things to modify this exercise. First off, I combine this practice with my Meditation/Emwave2 Training. Secondly, I use a PowerLung Sport.
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The PowerLung Sport and PowerLung Trainer (shown here) are devices that serve to 'exercise' the muscles of your lungs to improve your breathing. Just as you must exercise your legs if your want to run further, and you must exercise your compassion if you want to grow emotionally, you must exercise your lungs if you hope to become better at deep breathing. The PowerLung is an extremely effective way to do this, as it forces you to work for your breaths. An added side benefit is that it greatly increases your ability to perform in aerobic exercises!
My current practice involves doing the deep breathing exercises described above with the PowerLung every morning and every evening until I reach 100 points on my Emwave2 set on easy, at which point I try to achieve 100 points on a harder setting without the PowerLung. The whole routine takes about 10 minutes every morning and 10 minutes every evening. It is totally doable, and totally worth it.
As always, let me know how you do - what techniques have you discovered that work best for you?
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