Stress is a natural part of life. It is a feeling of tension that often results from an event or thought that causes you to feel angry, frustrated, or nervous. Whilst everyone experiences stress, if it impedes you from doing the things you would love to do, or even worse, the things you absolutely need to do, it’s time to get it under control. Chronic stress – often as a direct consequence of a difficult to resolve situation – can have long-lasting damaging effects to your health, and in some severe cases, even contribute to heart disease. Now is the time to take back control! This is where something as seemingly simple as breathing can make a monumental difference.
Important! If you have any health conditions, especially any concerns that are respiratory related, you should consult with your physician before doing any breathing exercises.
Research has shown that our brains associate our emotions with our breathing patterns. Breathing exercises work by tricking your brain into thinking that you are in a different emotional state to the one you are, thereby reinforcing feelings that settle your equilibrium, banishing negative thoughts in place of positive thinking. When feeling contentment, our breathing tends to be regular, deeper and consistent. On the contrary, when stressed, our breathing becomes more irregular, shallow and quicker.
Breathing exercises, that can be done anytime and anywhere, are an exceptionally convenient proactive or reactive approach to managing your stress levels and getting you back on track. Who hasn’t felt remarkably less anxious after taking a few deep breaths? Breathing exercises expand upon this approach, with numerous scientific studies showing their short-term and long-term benefits.
The 4-7-8 method is a simple breathing exercise that takes very little time to do and has been shown to reduce feelings of anxiety, whilst helping you to think more clearly. The technique was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, who referred to the method as a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system”. The best part of the 4-7-8 method is that it can be done anywhere, even if you have only a few moments. This makes it ideal when dealing with sudden unexpected stress. The 4-7-8 method is as follows:
1. Find a comfortable place to sit with your back straight.
2. Place your tongue against the back of your top teeth and keep it there.
3. Exhale completely through your mouth around your tongue, making a whoosh sound.
4. Close your lips and inhale through your nose for a count of four.
5. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
6. Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound for a count of eight.
7. This completes one cycle. Repeat for three more cycles.
Created by legendary Dutch ‘Ice Man’, Wim Hof, the Wim Hof Breathing method has taken the world by storm, with many people reporting remarkable changes in their everyday lives. Hof believes you can accomplish incredible feats by developing command over your body, breath, and mind using specific breathing techniques. He also famously believes in cold shock therapy, but in this blog, we’re focusing on his revolutionary breathing method.
The Wim Hof Method includes ‘rounds’ of breathing. Each ‘round’ is comprised of the following:
1. Take in a strong inhalation through the nose.
2. Let out a relaxed exhalation through the mouth.
3. Repeat for 30 breaths.
4. On the 30th breath, exhale to 90 percent and hold for as long as you can.
5. When you feel your body really needs to take a breath, inhale fully and hold for 15 seconds before releasing.
Whereas most people primarily use only the top of their lungs when inhaling, the Wim Hof method engages the diaphragm, filling the lower lungs. This can lead to a deep, almost euphoric, meditative state. Perhaps even more remarkable is that all of the following purported benefits to the Wim Hof Method are supported by scientific evidence:
• voluntary influence of the nervous system and immune system
• anti-inflammatory effects
• decreases in flu-like symptoms
• increased levels of nervous system neurotransmitters
• reductions in altitude sickness
• improved oxygen delivery during exercise
For more information about the Wim Hof Method, including a fantastic 11-minute video by Wim Hof where he coaches you as you practice his breathing method in real-time, click this link.
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This week’s challenge is simple but powerful. Try the 4-7-8 method twice per day for one week.
“If you can learn how to use your mind, anything is possible.”
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