Our lungs are a great concern these days. So, what are you doing for your lungs?
In this article, I will give you a breathing exercise and some other helpful hints or reminders as well as tools for greater lung health.
First off… BREATHE!
Go outside and get fresh air. It has been shown that people who get outside and get fresh (clean) air on a regular basis have a stronger immune system than those who stay indoors. This means less illness overall as your body has an easier time fighting off germs before they invade and take over. Fresh air helps the airways of your lungs to dilate more fully and improve the cleansing action of your lungs. When you exhale and breathe out your lungs release airborne toxins from your body. Trees give off oxygen through a process called photosynthesis, so if you can walk in a park or woods it would be helpful. Especially during winter months when we are often closed up indoors a lot and don’t get as much clean air.
Control the Humidity in Your Home
The air can also be dry during winter months when we spend more time indoors with the furnaces and wood stoves running. Dryness irritates the respiratory passages and sinuses which increases the risk of spreading viruses. So, it is best to try to control humidity levels using a humidifier or dehumidifier. Humidity levels are best between 30%-50%. If your humidifier does not come with a control on it, you can use a device called a hygrometer to measure the amount of humidity in the air.
How To Get Clean Air Without Being Outside
If you are unable to be outside due to certain health conditions or allergies, you need to control the air inside your home. Clean your home and try to keep it as free from dust and dirt as possible. Change the furnace filter and wash your bed linens often. Use of air purifiers and humidifiers mentioned above are useful. You can help clean the air indoors by using house plants, which give off oxygen like trees do. The Aloe Vera plant is known to release more oxygen at night which purifies the air and helps us breathe easier while we sleep. You can use beeswax candles, salt lamps, and essential oils to help with air quality.
Don’t smoke, of course, for better lung health and follow the health hints of:
- Get enough rest
- Keep hydrated by drinking enough water
- Eat a good diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Lose weight (we all gain when we are home for extended periods of time)
- Avoid pollutants and allergens
- Control humidity in your home
How to Breathe
It is important to breathe in through your nose because little nose hairs called cilia filter out dust, debris, and toxins. Breathing through your nose controls the temperature of the air coming in. Sometimes warming and sometimes cooling the air to your lungs, to a certain degree, since the lungs are not a big fan of too hot or cold air. The nasal passages are specifically designed to humidify the air you breathe as well. In times of big exposure to allergens, dust, and pollutants another way to rid your nose of debris is to use a sinus or neti pot found at your local pharmacy or drug store.
The Benefits of Deep Breathing
Do some deep breathing. Several studies show how deep, or diaphragmatic, breathing can slow your heart rate and reduce blood pressure. This type of breathing stimulates the Vagus nerve which reduces the fight or flight response that causes feelings of anxiety or tension. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which promotes a state of calmness. When done at night it can help relax you and prepare you for sleep. Deep breathing also is more effective in pumping lymph fluid throughout the body, which stimulates self-healing. The lymph fluid contains immune cells which are targeted to fight bacteria and viruses. In addition, deep breathing shifts the production of brain chemicals which promote healing.
Breathe from your diaphragm (abdomen), not your chest. Your Diaphragm is a muscle located across the bottom of your lungs and above your stomach. It is a primary muscle and is controlled by the Phrenic Nerve. Since our lung function and lung capacity decreases slowly as we age after our mid-20s, like any muscle the diaphragm needs to be strengthened. To strengthen it and accomplish better lung health ad get your body the oxygen it needs, you can perform breathing exercises.
A Breathing Exercise
One simple breathing technique or exercise is called “box breathing.” Simply take in a deep breath with your nose, filling your lungs to the count of four. Feel your lungs expanding starting at your diaphragm up to the tip of your lungs. Then hold your breath for four counts, and then exhale slowly four counts through your mouth. It is good to repeat this four times. You can do this exercise several times throughout the day if needed. It is recommended that you sit while doing this just in case you get a little dizzy or lightheaded. This can be normal but with practice, it becomes less. The better your lung capacity the healthier your lungs will be. There are many different breathing techniques for breathing using different counts. There is no right or wrong technique. Research and find one that you like best. The goal is to pick one and use it often.
While our lungs automatically work for us, it is important to also be conscious of your breathing in times of stress and when the quality of your air is compromised.
Please share this article with anyone you feel could benefit from it.
Next month we will visit a Chinese Parable about perception.