Breathe … on Clean Air Day

The World Health Organisation and the UK Government recognise that air pollution is the largest environmental health risk we face today. That’s why they’re taking action with Clean Air Day. It’s something that matters to us at Complete too – particularly because we talk so much about the value of breathing.

Breathing – in the right way – is fundamental to emotional control. That’s because we can use our breath to affect our heart rate variability (HRV). With a more coherent HRV signal, we feel in control and are able to make better decisions and avoid the brain shutdown that is associated with stress.

But how do you breathe in the right way?

It’s not just about taking a deep breath. Although, that’s probably what you’ve been told when you’ve appeared stressed or anxious. In fact, we need to breathe rhythmically and evenly, not deeply.

Breathing rhythmically means have a fixed ratio of in-breath to out-breath. You could try it now. Breathe in slowly to a count of four, pause and then breathe out to a count of six. You don’t need to try to fill up your lungs, just take in a comfortable amount of air as you bring rhythm to your breathing rate. The exact numbers you’re counting don’t matter either, as long as the ratio stays fixed, and you maintain that ratio consistently. It could be five in and five out, for example.

It’s also important that your breathing is smooth. You don’t want to gasp in the air too fast and then have to hold your breath for the count. Just try to breathe in and out smoothly, with a gentle, constant flow of air.

Finally, we talk about bringing your attention to your heart when you’re breathing. It’s a place to focus when we’re breathing to create a coherent HRV signal. That focus also helps us breathe lower into our body, rather than just in the top half of our lungs.

Start somewhere quiet and then build your skills

Initially, as you start to breathe in a way that will control your HRV, and ultimately your wellbeing and performance, start on your own in a quiet place, away from distractions. A you get comfortable in that setting and are able to maintain the breathing techniques outlined above, you can then progress to practising when other people are around. Ultimately, you will eventually be able to use this technique in busy, stressful situations.

Want some app-based guidance?

You might want to download our Complete app (Google Play or Apple) to help your breathing practice. On there, you’ll find a breathing practice that covers all the points above. Give it a go and let us know how you get on.

The power of breathing is transformative. We teach the techniques above in many of our individual coaching and team journey programmes. Do get in touch if you want to learn more.

Share This Post