Sunday, January 3, 2010


"Just Breathe"

A form of advice that is so seemingly obvious and vital, and yet so often overlooked. It is also one of my essential resolutions for 2010 (and beyond).

I started thinking about it a few months ago after listening to a podcast of the CBC show "Spark" where researcher Linda Stone was exploring the concept of "email apnea" (the tendency to breathe shallowly, hyperventilate, or not breathe at all while checking email, using using an iPhone, or interacting with similar forms of technology).

In addition to my own form of email apnea I began to notice this pattern for myself in other circumstances as well, especially when I am stuck in traffic and stressed out about getting somewhere. I have a tendency to take shallow and short breaths during the exact moments where my poor oxygen deprived brain needs to be as alert as possible.

I would encourage everyone to take stock of this, especially in the context of our technologically saturated lives where we are often held breathless and captive by the engaging content or some all consuming task that is before us. Next time you are really enraptured by something on your computer try to take notice of how you are breathing and you might be alarmed by what you find.

Part of my mantra at work lately with my social work colleagues is to remind them at times to take big breaths before running off towards another of many stressful circumstances in their day. One of the benefits of taking stock of my own patterns of breathing is to notice when others are in need of this useful reminder as well (used sparingly of course).

So there you have it, one of my hopes for this new year is to allow my diaphragm to expand and extract with great gusto and vitality. I want huge, deep and vital breaths on a regular basis. On average we take
18,000 to 26,000 breaths every 24 hours, and I want a good percentage of those to be pretty damn meaningful this year!

So remember, "just breathe".....


Allison said...

How quickly we forget to just breathe. I had one of those moments today, piled underneath grant applications, thankfully I remembered to exhale. ;)

Randal Graves said...

"What's wrong with that guy?"

"Oh, he's just breathing."

Word verfication: denticar, noun, how a dentist goes to/from work each day.

Liberality said...

And there is research that shows that if YOU take slow, deep breaths the people around you will mimic your pattern. Without saying a word you can calm the entire situation down which I think is amazing!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I missed that episode of Spark. That alone is enough to make me breathe rapidly and shallowly. I did not realise this connection to technology, but it is quite fascinating.

I have always been amazed at how simply slowly my breathing can noticably reduce my heart rate. Now of course I will take a note of what happens when I am reading exciting blog posts and emails.

Westcoast Walker said...

Allison - maybe if you exhale hard enough you can blow away all that nasty paper work!

Randal - A denticar cut me off the other day, so rather than flip the bird at someone who one day might do a tooth extraction for me, I took a nice deep breathe instead.

Lib - I'm going to try that as an exercise to see if I can influence the breathing pattern in a room (or at least engage in mass hypnosis)

Barb - I'd be interested to learn what you notice when you start to take notice of this - perhaps there will be a correlation between the quality of what you are reading and the quality or pattern of your breathing.