It's a New Year and no doubt you might be worried about returning to the new year with the same problems of feeling stressed, burnt out, and anxious on a daily basis, or maybe not and if thats the case, exit out of this article it's not for you...
However if it is then it's now time to learn how to control your state and shift from a "surviving" to a "thriving" state.
"Sounds like a vibe if you ask me!"
The Science Behind Breathwork
Studies have shown that taking just 2 minutes for yourself can significantly impact your nervous system and bring you into a state of "rest and digest" (also known as the parasympathetic nervous system) rather than constantly being in a state of "fight or flight" (sympathetic nervous system).
This can be projected as the difference between driving on a busy highway vs. taking a peaceful country road.
"The busy highway represents the sympathetic nervous system, where you're constantly on edge and on the lookout for danger, while the peaceful country road represents the parasympathetic nervous system, where you can relax and take in the scenery."
But how exactly do we shift from the busy highway to the peaceful country road?
The key is proper breathing techniques! (Insert Cheering) 👏
Breaking Down How To Use Breathwork
Exhaling activates the parasympathetic nervous system while inhaling activates the sympathetic nervous system.
One study conducted by Harvard Medical School found that controlled breathing can decrease the activity of the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for the stress response, increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain essentially responsible for decision making and problem solving.
"How good! No more running around like manic person"
Imagine this is like turning down the volume on the stress response and turning up the volume on your ability to think clearly and make rational decisions. Another study by the University of Sussex found that practicing mindfulness and breathing techniques for just 8 weeks can decrease the symptoms of anxiety and depression by up to 58%!
Simple Breathwork Method
A simple method to try is the cadence sequence of 3 seconds in, 3 second hold, 6 seconds out, and 3 second hold.
Much like box breathing this "Cadence Breathing" focuses on more of an exhale to allow you to really enhance that Rest and Digest state.
A few cool things to know is that this slow and controlled breathing pattern will help slow your brainwaves and shift you from a panicked and reactive state to a calm and mindful one. It's like getting off a rollercoaster and onto a gentle carousel.
So Whats A Brainwave State?
Brainwave states refer to the different patterns of electrical activity in the brain that can be measured by an EEG (electroencephalogram) machine. They are categorized based on their frequency range, with the following five common states:
- Delta (0.5-4 Hz) - Deep sleep
- Theta (4-8 Hz) - Drowsy, light sleep
- Alpha (8-12 Hz) - Relaxed, awake but not alert
- Beta (12-30 Hz) - Alert, focused
- Gamma (30-100 Hz) - High mental activity, peak perception.
Their frequency ranges can influence the regulation of our emotional state.
"Wild stuff right!"
The nervous system plays a crucial role in regulating brainwave activity and emotional state, and breathwork can be used to control and manipulate the nervous system.
Breathing patterns can impact brainwave activity, and the emotional state, by regulating the level of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, which affects the activity of nerve cells in the brain. This means, it changes the brainwave patterns, leading to a change in emotional state.
For example, slow, deep breathing can slow down brainwave activity and induce a relaxed, calm state, while rapid breathing can increase brainwave activity and induce feelings of anxiety or arousal.
By understanding how breathwork can control brainwave activity, individuals can use this to regulate their emotional state and improve their well-being.
Think of brainwave states as different gears in a car, each gear corresponds to a specific frequency range and emotional state. By changing the gear, you can change the speed and emotional state you are in. Breathing is like the accelerator pedal, it can speed up or slow down the activity in the brain and change the emotional state. By understanding and controlling these two aspects, individuals can effectively regulate their emotional state and improve their mental well-being.
The rollercoaster represents the sympathetic nervous system, where you're on a wild ride, think fighting with a partner or stress and worry built up at work for no reason, while the gentle carousel represents the parasympathetic nervous system, where you can relax and enjoy the ride, think of a flow state where everything works well and you're just thriving in everything you do with a happy positive attitude.
"Now if that didn’t get you excited to start changing your breathing than maybe this will!:
5 reasons why mastering your emotional state through proper breathing techniques can improve your professional and personal life
1. Improved Focus and Productivity:
By shifting into a "thriving" state, you can improve your ability to focus and be more productive in both your professional and personal life.
This can lead to increased success at work and a better ability to achieve your goals.
2. Better Decision Making:
When you're in a state of "survival," the stress response can cloud your judgment and make it harder to make rational decisions. By shifting into a "thriving" state, you can improve your ability to think clearly and make better decisions, leading to more successful outcomes in both your professional and personal life.
3. Better Relationships:
When you're in a constant state of stress and anxiety, it can be difficult to connect with others and maintain healthy relationships. We all have at one point said something we regret at in the heat of the moment, imagine how situations would play out if you were just a little more cooler in those times, by shifting into a "thriving" state, you can improve your ability to communicate effectively and build stronger connections with others and not find yourself in avoidable and regretful times in life.
4. Improved Physical Health:
Stress and anxiety can take a toll on your physical health, when you're in a stressed state your body is focused on pumping the stress hormone called cortisol to help aid in protecting you because as our stress response is our survival state its focus isn't allowing the body to recover which means time we need for inflammation reductions is reduced, our maintenance phase isn't in effect and we find our recovery going down the drain but by shifting into a "thriving" state, you can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body and improve your overall physical health.
5. Increased Overall Well-Being:
When you're in a constant state of "survival," it can be difficult to find joy and fulfilment in life. You're more prone to illness, underperforming in life and feeling anxious and depressed and by shifting into a "thriving" state, you can live your best life physically, mentally, spiritual and keep your foundations of stability in life which is what we all want and need to have an epic life!
As always this an opportunity to learn about new ways that could create a massive impact on your life and always recommend speaking with a professional in a personalised session before diving into anything as each person is different.
This information does not constitute medical advice and it should not be relied upon as such. Consult with your doctor before participating in any tools as mentioned above.
Chris Walker - Founder Of TravelFit
Chris is a Certified Personal Trainer, Strength and Conditioning Coach, Sports Nutrition Advisor, Breathing Performance Coach, Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Coach, Over 10 years experience in the health and fitness industry, while also running his own businesses since 2014 allowing him to implement and practice tools that allowed him to thrive in life.
In the past Chris experienced first hand on how to overcome his own severe anxiety and depression through changing lifestyle habits and behaviours through holistic health.