#WhatWorks Breathe, You’re Not Doing It As Often As You Think

Liz Presson • 26 November 2014

Thanks to my incredible friend, Payal, I took up meditation as my #100DayProject. Tons of people talk about the benefits of meditation (Russell Simmons, I’m looking at you), and I believe in all of them. But, what I’ve taken away the most is bringing breathing into my work. As a recovering perfectionist, type-A personality, I want people to feel like they’re getting a ton of value from me. Don’t we all? I’m also working on getting out of the trap of reactive work. That means setting aside specific times for things like email, social media and even letting that “urgent” IM go.

For both situations, I’ve been using breathing to take a step back. Recently, I read Linda Stone’s explanation of screen apnea and realized the true importance of doing this. Screen apnea is the temporary cessation of breath or shallow breathing while sitting in front of a screen, even a phone. Linda observed hundreds of people using computers and saw that we’re holding our breath—especially when responding to email.

The impact? “…breath holding contributed significantly to stress-related diseases. The body becomes acidic; the kidneys begin to reabsorb sodium; and the oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide balance is undermined, which throws off our biochemistry.” This affects learning, memory, sleep, and most likely depression—and it’s a path to obesity. Holding our breath puts us in fight-or-flight mode, which tells the body to get ready for physical activity. But, then, we just sit at our computer. As Linda says, “we’re all dressed up with nowhere to go.”

That’s where conscious breathing comes in. It controls our sense of hunger and satiety, the relaxation response and aspects of healthy organ function.

One of the things that David Simon shared while traveling the world is the “just one” technique. Inhale as you tell yourself the word “just” and exhale on “1.” Repeat until you get to 10. “Just….1. Just…2. etc.” Try it, just for today, when you experience a moment when you might clench your teeth and stop breathing.

When you practice meditation, you’ll do this more naturally throughout the day.

A little woo? Totally. Does it work? Absolutely.

The #WhatWorks series.

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