The the function of the autonomic nervous system is critical for the health of the body. The autonomic system consists of two branches.
1. The sympathetic system which reacts to stress and dictates a fight or flight response.
2. The parasympathetic system which calms the body down for resting and digesting.
Both systems are important for survival and health. But many of us spend far too much time in fight or flight which comes with detrimental long term health impact.
Prolonged and unchecked fight or flight is suspected to play a role in heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s not easy to change our personalities & how we react to stress. But it’s important that if we have a lot of stress, that we keep the stress physiology in check.
A simple and free way to do that, that takes no additional use of your time is changing your 𝗯𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗽𝗮𝘁𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝘀.
Many of us breath in a way that is fast and shallow, but neurologically this can bias our sympathetic nervous system.
When we inhale rapidly, our sympathetic nerves tend to fire more which keeps our heart rates slightly elevated.
Breathing out has the opposite effect. It tends to activate our vagus nerve and slows down our heart rate.
A simple way to get more parasympathetic activation from our vagus nerve is just to spend more time breathing out!
It’s too simple, but really effective.
Here’s how you can work on this:
1. When you are reading, watching TV, working on the computer, getting ready for sleep, start focusing on slowing your breath.
2. Take normal breaths in, but start focusing on doubling the number of seconds breathing out.
If it takes 2 seconds to breathe in, spend a full 4 seconds breathing out. If it takes 3 seconds to breathe in, spend 6 seconds out.
Try to go as slow as possible.
Initially the breath out will feel strange, but you are training yourself to breathe differently so it is normal to be uncomfortable.
Within weeks of practice, your natural pattern will change, and this can have significant effect on your physiology.