Want to breathe better? Avoid these 5 bad breathing habits

A woman who is coughing

Breathing is the rhythmical process of inhaling air (oxygen) and exhaling carbon dioxide from the lungs. This exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide is called respiration, which is vital for cellular function and energy production. Although it is a natural human body process, you can make some breathing mistakes. Several people, intentionally or unintentionally, may follow bad breathing habits such as mouth breathing or shallow breathing. These practices may increase the risk of dry mouth, stress, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, which may significantly impact overall well-being.

Bad breathing habits

Here are 5 bad breathing habits you should avoid in order to improve your breathing pattern:

1. Mouth breathing

Mouth breathing can lead to several health issues. Breathing through the mouth bypasses the nasal passages, which are designed to filter, warm, and humidify the air before it reaches the lungs. According to a study published by BMC Sports Science, Medicine, and Rehabilitation, nighttime mouth breathing can result in dry mouth, sore throat, bad breath, and increased susceptibility to infections. Over time, mouth breathing can also contribute to dental problems, sleep problems and even structural changes in the face, particularly in children.

2. Shallow breathing

Many people habitually take shallow breaths that do not fully engage the diaphragm. “Shallow breathing often involves using the chest muscles instead of the diaphragm, leading to reduced oxygen intake and poor gas exchange,” says Dr Manjusha Agarwal, an Internal Medicine Physician. This can result in fatigue, increased stress levels, and poor concentration. Deep diaphragmatic breathing, where the abdomen rises when you inhale and falls when you exhale, ensures that more oxygen enters the bloodstream, promoting relaxation and better physiological function.

Shallow breathing can be problematic. Image courtesy: fFreepik

3. Breathing through the chest

Chest breathing, similar to shallow breathing, limits the amount of air reaching the lower lungs. This inefficient breathing pattern can cause a lack of oxygen in the body, contributing to stress and anxiety. Over time, chest breathing can increase tension in the shoulders and neck. Additionally, prolonged chest breathing can contribute to tension, headaches, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

4. Over breathing (Hyperventilation)

Hyperventilation, or breathing too rapidly and deeply, can disrupt the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. It is more of a reaction to stress than a habit. However, if allowed to continue, it can become a habit. Dr Agarwal says. “This imbalance can lead to symptoms like lightheadedness, tingling in the extremities, and shortness of breath.” Over-breathing is often a response to anxiety or panic, and it can exacerbate these feelings. People may also experience symptoms like numbness and tingling in their arms and around the mouth.

5. Breath holding

Holding your breath, either consciously or unconsciously, can be detrimental to health. This often occurs during moments of intense concentration, stress, or even while talking. Breath holding can lead to increased carbon dioxide levels in the blood, causing dizziness, headaches, and elevated stress. In fact, if you hold it for too long, it can cause your heart to start beating irregularly and may cause problems in your kidneys and liver.

How to breathe properly?

Here are 5 tips to improve your breathing and kidney and lung function:

1. Practice diaphragmatic breathing

Engage your diaphragm by breathing deeply into your abdomen. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. As you breathe in, your belly should rise more than your chest. This technique enhances oxygen intake and promotes relaxation.

2. Nasal breathing

Try to breathe through your nose as much as possible. It promotes a slower, more controlled breathing pattern, which can help reduce stress and improve oxygen exchange.

Also read: Pranayama: 3 breathing techniques to calm your mind daily

3. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques

Engage in activities such as yoga, meditation, or tai chi, which emphasise proper breathing techniques and can help reduce stress and improve breathing patterns.

4. Stay hydrated

Adequate hydration helps maintain the mucous membranes in your respiratory system, making breathing easier and more efficient. So, make sure you are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

A woman drinking water
Hydration is essential to improving breathing. Image courtesy: Pexels

5. Regular exercise

Physical activity increases lung capacity and promotes efficient breathing. Ensure your workouts include aerobic exercises that naturally encourage deeper breathing.

By incorporating these tips into your daily routine, you can improve your breathing efficiency, enhance your physical health, and promote a sense of calm and well-being.

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