I’m sure you’ve heard the term “take a deep breath” in relation to anger, nerves, excitement, whatever emotion have you. Chances are, you’ve even used it at some point in time yourself. However the phrase be manipulated, the expression holds great truth in it’s words. Aside from the known fact that it is a basic need for survival, the actual act of “taking a breath” proves to be effective to our overall health and emotional well-being. Standing especially significant to Seniors, practicing proper breathing techniques could add years to one’s life.
Self Regulating for Cognitive Health
In relation to emotions, the ability to self regulate is being able to respond to a feeling in a manner that is socially acceptable, while also maintaining one’s self worth and value. Depending on the cognitive state of mind, how your feeling will greatly impact the physical and physiological response let off by the emotional chemical reactors. Breathing is our body’s way of self regulating in efforts to live a life of longevity, vitality and happiness.
Mild Cognitive Impairment in Seniors
With the rate of dementia steadily increasing, study from the Alzheimer’s Association provides that up to 20% of seniors over the age of 65 could be suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment. Although young adults and seniors have homogeneous brain structures, because of the cognitive decline related to aging, self-regulation of emotions becomes increasingly more difficult the older you get. Starting the practice of breathing exercises, even in the later years of life, can greatly impact cognitive functioning and emotional well being.
Lung Capacity and Aging
According to the American Lung Association, by the age of 25, your lungs have reached maximum capacity with the ability to hold up to 6 liters of air. By 35 years of age, lung functioning already begins to decline. In addition to healthy and efficient working lungs, the American Lung Association encourages breathing exercises to stimulate a positive response to mood and mental relaxation, both effective to the response let off by chemical reactors.
The Wheel of Emotion
Robert Plutchik, late Professor of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, developed the psycho-evolutionary theory on emotion, “Emotion: a Psychoevolutionary Synthesis.” His theory was classified as the most influential proposition to general understanding of emotions and why they occur. In his theory, plutchik explained how there are 8 primary emotions: Fear, Anger, Sadness, Joy, Disgust, Trust, Anticipation and Surprise. Next to each primary emotions are two secondary emotions. As a comparable diagram to our color wheel, Plutchik created the wheel of emotion. Any other emotions outside of this wheel are considered derivative states.
If following Plutchik’s theory on emotion, with proper breathing exercises (self-regulating), we can direct a greater physiological, social and psychological response. For example, when feeling angry, it can go one of two ways: good or bad. On the surface, anger prompts for a negative or destructive response. This is true, but anger can also influence motivation and promote self-insight. This goes back to how breathing techniques improve overall mood and therefore affecting the emotional response. Striving for a more positive response will lead to a greater life.
8 Stages to Happiness
Listed below are the 8 different stages of emotion. Alongside each emotion are the physical and mental responses let off by each. As it is natural to experience such feelings throughout life, even providing to be necessary means for survival (recognizing a dangerous or threatening situation and acting appropriately), each emotion has a different influence, either standing to be beneficial or detrimental to overall health and wellbeing.
Applies to each of the 8 emotions
- Recognizing one’s feelings to bring self awareness
- Being able to manage those feelings in a socially acceptable manner
- Staying motivated and working towards a goal
- Taking into consideration how others perceive your actions and therefore acting accordingly (socially acceptable and self worth)
- Being able to manage relationships and develop social skills
- FearChills or a hot flush, sweating, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, chest pain, dry mouth, numbness, and disorientation
- AngerAdrenaline rush, Increased heart rate, blood pressure and tensing of the muscles, while body gears for a “fight or flight” response. Other symptoms include teeth grinding, clenched fists or sweating.
- SadnessInsomnia, muscle or chest pain, digestive issues, headaches, exhaustion, fatigue, and weight loss or gain.
- JoyIncreased heart rate, high blood pressure, diminishes pain, boosts immunity, and relaxed muscles.
- DisgustWeakened immune system, decreased labido, cardivascular and respitory changes, cognitive functioning and motor control issues
- TrustAffects how you perceive situations by listening and gaining or losing confidence during a situation (if a situation is harmful)
- AnticipationIncreased heart rate, hot flashes or chills, numbness, stomach pain, and dizziness
- SurpriseIncreased heart rate, adrenaline boost, short of breath, rapid breathing, and encourages fight or flight response,
Breathing Exercises for the Elderly Proper breathing will impact strength and stamina to the body and mind. Depending on the state of each individual and their level of mobility, the intensity of each breathing exercise will vary. Each breathing exercise listed has a different effect from restful sleep to improved lung functioning resulting in better oxygen flow and improved mood. Normal to aging, seniors are deprived of up to 20% of their blood oxygen levels. Following these exercises can greatly influence overall health and encourage a positive and fulfilling life.
For all exercises, it is important to maintain proper posture throughout. To do this, make sure the spine is straight by lifting the ribcage and relaxing the shoulders back. Do not hold your breath; common for seniors to do, cutting off oxygen levels can result in dizziness. If at any point dizziness occurs, stop the exercise immediately. If possible, fresh air is optimal.
a. Sitting: In a seated and comfortable position, place the right hand over your heart while your left hand is over the stomach. Inhale deep enough that you can feel your right hand over your heart lifting with your chest. As you continue to inhale, you should feel your left hand begins to lift up with your stomach. Now exhale slowly and repeat this step multiple times. It is recommended to practice for a minimum of 5 minutes. Closing of the eyes is optional, but may help with concentration of breath and relaxation.
This exercise is beneficial for healthy sleep patterns, relaxing the nervous system, reducing stress and helping mood.
b. Standing: With both hands placed on the stomach, breath in through the nose. Take note to how your stomach expands as you take your breath. Slowly exhale through your mouth, feeling your stomach relaxing back to it’s original position. Repeat multiple times.
Paying attention to the rhythm of your breaths as they enter and leave the body requires concentration. Emotions such as fear and anger are forgotten and you are left with a peaceful mind.
c. Thumb to Nose: Take your thumb and press down on the right nostril enough to fully stop airflow from entering. Breath deep and before exhaling, release your nostril and now press down on the left nostril, exhaling the same breath you just inhaled. Now repeat with the opposite nostril, first plugging the left nostril now and exhaling through the right.
This form of breathing brings natural energy, comparable to that of a cup of coffee.
d. 4-7-8 Exercise: First exhale your existing breath, do so heavily enough that you can hear the air coming out of the mouth, similar to the sound of wind. Now, breath through the nose for the count of four and then hold your breath for a total of 7 seconds. Exhale, but this time counting to 8, but keeping the same “wind-like” manner. Repeat as necessary.
This exercise is specifically notable to falling asleep, showing results in as little as 1 minute. Repeating this exercise morning and night can also help fight food cravings and reduce anxiety.
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