Have you ever taken the time to figure out what you do with all the minutes in your day? If you are like me, you wonder where they go and why they go by so fast. What if I told you that spending just six minutes each day could dramatically reduce pain in your life and help you to feel calm and relaxed?
Did you know that over 25 million adults suffer daily with pain? Are you one of them? It could be joint pain, muscle pain, headaches, pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia or nerve pain, to name a few. We are a nation full of pain sufferers, and relief for many is found in the form of over-the-counter and prescription pain medicine.
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Dangers of Painkillers
Many types of chronic pain are inflammatory in nature. To combat this, some people use anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), both prescription and over the counter, to relieve it. While these drugs do not possess the addictive nature of opioids, they do carry some potentially dangerous risks.
In the case of all NSAID drugs, the most common side effect is gastrointestinal tract damage. According to Dr. Byron Cryer of the American Gastroenterological Association, over half of all bleeding ulcer instances can be traced back to NSAID use. Other side effects of NSAIDs include severe allergic reactions, kidney damage, and high blood pressure.
Many people who experience chronic pain are prescribed opioid painkillers by doctors. These are a popular option because this class of drug is very potent, and may temporarily eradicate many types of pain. However, these drugs come with a substantial cost in the form of some extremely nasty concerns and side effects.
The primary reason one may want to avoid opioids is their high potential for addiction. Opioid addiction is an epidemic in our nation. The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control reported that approximately 2.1 million people in the United States alone abused prescription opioid drugs in 2012.
Opioids also carry a high risk of overdose. The CDC reports that in 2010, just under 17,000 Americans died from opioid overdoses. That’s more deaths than from heroin and cocaine put together.
Aside from the frightening risks of addiction and overdose, opioid drugs are accompanied by a lot of potential side effects. One includes slow, shallow breathing, which can lead to death in the case of overdose. Other side effects include irregular heart rhythms, drowsiness, sleep disorders, digestive issues, lowered sex drive, osteoporosis (when taken long term) and tooth decay. It can even cause hyperalgesia, an instance where taking opioids leads to more pain, not less.
Do You Have Six Minutes a Day to Spare?
I hope that your answer to this question is an inequitable, yes! If you can manage to carve out just 2 minutes each morning, midday and evening, you may well be on your way to pain relief, and relaxation like you have never experienced before.
This is Something Most People Don’t Do Well
Breathing sustains life, breathing correctly revitalizes and can improve the quality of life while minimizing pain and maximizing relaxation. Most people don’t take the time to think about breathing; it is just one of those things that happen, all on its own. While this is true – taking the time to breathe correctly, even for six short minutes each day, can make a world of difference to your health.
Belly breathing or “diaphragmatic breathing,” is the ancient practice of breathing in which we can actually control our mind and body. According to the London Pain Clinic, diaphragmatic breathing is known as the act of breathing deeply into the lungs by flexing the diaphragm, not the rib cage which results in shallow breathing. As noted in the name belly breathing, when you breathe deeply there is an expansion of the stomach, not the chest.
Even taking the time to breathe deeply for six minutes each day can make a tremendous difference in your health.
Here are just five reasons why we should all belly breathe daily.
Belly Breathing Alleviates Pain
Do you notice that your pain increases when you are under stress? Belly breathing is the perfect answer to reducing the stress in your life that may be causing pain flare-ups. Deep breathing alters your psychological state and makes pain diminish in intensity.
Did you know that your brain is capable of making its own morphinelike pain relievers that are called endorphins and enkephalins? These hormones promote happy and positive feelings that can transmit messages to “stop the pain” through the body. Breathing deeply also oxygenates the blood, triggers the release of endorphins and decreases stress hormones which slow the heart rate.
Belly Breathing Improves Respiration
If you have ever watched an infant or a dog or cat breathe, you would notice something interesting. There is a tremendous amount of 3-dimensional expansive movements around the body – especially the abdomen. As we age, we become less likely to breathe expansively or efficiently. We grow stressed, wear tight-fitting clothing and live a lifestyle that pushes breathing to the bottom of the priority list because it “just happens.”
Our cells suffer when we breathe shallowly. They are not able to get the nutrients they need, and this can cause things like fatigue, brain fog, and even longterm illness and chronic pain.
On the other hand, deep breathing profits the entire body because of improved respiration and nutrient uptake.
Belly Breathing Promotes Relaxation
When we are living in a hurried state, like most of us are, we are often in what is known as a “fight or flight” mode. In this gear, we are engaging the sympathetic nervous system.
The only way we can access the autonomic nervous system is through deep breathing. This automatically increases the efficiency of our heart and digestion.
When we choose the relaxation response over the stress response, we can keep anxiety at bay which reduces our risk of stress-related illnesses such as heart disease, depression, digestive disorders and more.
Belly Breathing Improves Posture
Belly breathing encourages you to sit tall. This allows all of your organ systems to work efficiently. Food is easier to digest, your heart works more efficiently, your nerves and blood vessels are less likely to be pinched. This releases hormones that help you feel more confident, causing you to sit even taller.
Belly Breathing Stretches and Strengthens Core Muscles
Core muscles include the abdominals, erector back muscles, diaphragm, and the pelvic floor. When we breathe from our belly, the three-dimensional movement keeps these core muscles in good shape.
How to Belly Breathe
The best way to begin proper breathing is to lie on your back. Take slow, relaxed breaths that fill your entire lungs and expand your belly. Place your hands on your belly to feel the rise and fall. When you can do this easily lying down, try it standing up, it is a lot more difficult! As you progress, a great exercise to strengthen the diaphragm muscle is panting with your tongue stuck out like a dog. Seriously, the rapid motion engages the diaphragm for a quick 10-second breath workout!
To make proper breathing a daily habit, take slow, relaxed breaths for 2–5 minutes several times a day.
Breathing correctly benefits your health in surprising ways. You not only feel more relaxed, but you will have better nutrient absorption, lower blood pressure, and feel more energized. You may even drop a few excess pounds since your body requires a considerable amount of excess oxygen to dispose of fat. With all the benefits of breathing properly, it’s time to make the practice a priority and get started today.