Goleman’s popular book, Working with Emotional Intelligence, shows that 67% of what it takes to be a leader is emotional intelligence. It is also twice as important as technical proficiency or IQ.
Today’s disruptive environment of leadership, technological changes, increased workload, have escalated stress and anxiety in the workplace. Emotional Intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your emotions, as well as other people’s emotions and has been applauded as a way to reduce stress in the environment.
College and school going students too are affected due to the competitive environment, unemployment worries, admission and exam performance. Some people naturally inherit high EQ but it’s a skill that you can practice and develop. By becoming more self-aware and learning how to self regulate your brain will adapt to make these behaviours automatic and replace less helpful behaviours.
Science says that breathing right releases the brain’s chemical messengers, ‘noradrenaline’ in the bloodstream. It promotes the growth of new neural connections thereby causing overall brain growth.
Certain studies also indicate that focused breathing can lower the risk of dementia and promote a happy heart. Research also shows that Deep breathing is a ‘quick fix’ for any stressful situation. It stimulates the ‘vagus nerve.’ Which scales down feelings of anxiety and tension and gives enough time to deal with a situation more calmly.
But how does one breathe right?
There is so much written today on the same — the Navy Seal method, Wim Hof breathing, the 4–7–8 method, Coach Budd’s rhythmic breathing, Buteyko methods and of course the many types of Pranayamas or yogic breathing.
I started on this ‘breathing right’ journey at a theatre workshop in high school. The instructor asked us to stand straight and take a very deep inhale and then explained why 90% of us including me were breathing wrong!! This followed by a variety of Yoga instructors and long-distance running trainers has made me a true believer.
I am 100% convinced of the power of our Breath and will share how this knowledge and the ability to control it can help you.
a. Heal yourself
b. Calm your temper
c. Get extra Energy for a fight or physical activity
e. Refresh yourself
f. Sleep better
And you can do this all at your own will
Firstly, getting rid of carbon dioxide, not bringing in oxygen, is the main stimulus that drives us to breathe under most circumstances. This is because too much carbon dioxide makes the blood more acidic, which can impair the function of all of your body’s cells.
Your brain is finely tuned to maintain the pH of the blood, so when the pH gets more acidic, it triggers the stress response and sends an urgent message to the diaphragm to initiate a breath to bring in more O2 and rebalance the blood.
There are broadly TWO ways we can breathe and everything else is a combination or a variation. And of course, as in everything the context to where / when one is breathing should not be ignored.
Relaxed breathing (Belly or Abdominal)
Lie down, or sit straight but comfortably. Relax and put one hand on your chest and one on your upper stomach.
Watch the movement of your hands
Take a DEEP breath and watch the movement of your hand.
Take a DEEPER breath and watch it again.
How do your hands move in each?
How do they move in the Deepest breath that you took?
The correct movement for normal/relaxed breathing is that the hand on your chest should not move at all. When you breathe in the hand on your stomach should move UP / Out and when you breathe out it should move IN.
Are You Breathing Right?
This is the Normal and Ideal way of breathing and encourages resting, relaxation, creativity, healing, meditation, sleep, etc. Both the inhale and the exhale are important. Both are done slowly.
When you breathe in, the hand on your stomach should move Up / Out. This should be followed by an upward/outward movement of the hand on the chest. While breathing out again, both stomach and chest move inwards. The thumb rule is — when you breathe in, your body has to expand.
You could call this Belly or Abdominal breathing and can be ALWAYS used to calm one’s self down. It can also lower blood pressure, help relax muscles, reduce heart rate, decrease stress, help one face difficult situations and increase energy levels.
Shallow / Stress breathing (Chest)
In this form of breathing the main movement is of the chest
Put your hands once again on your chest and stomach and try to expand your chest while taking in air. The hand on the stomach should not move.
When we breathe in this shallow way, the body remains in a cyclical state of stress — our stress causes shallow breathing/palpitations and shallow breathing causes stress. This also primes us for activity and quick response that may be needed in a flight or fight situation.
Shallow breathing is ok for when you have to prep for some immediate activity but if you breathe like this in the long term it can affect your health. Fatigue, back or neck pain, headaches, respiratory problems, etc. Shallow breathing happens at a faster rate and tires your heart and body completely.
Now Go For It!
Make friends with your breath, watch how you inhale and exhale and practice breathing the correct way. This is a huge achievement. Now spend 5 minutes focusing on this every day and discover your own way to center your life through your breath.
Become aware of what happens to your breathing when you see someone who you are fearful of or when you have thoughts that make you want to instantly fight or flee. Focus on getting back to Normal/Relaxed Breathing and see all the negativity go away.
Use your breath to help you Focus, welcome all your distracting thoughts and calm them with your consistent, slow and expanding life-breath! Use breathing to improve your Emotional Intelligence and make you more self-aware, empathetic, motivated and conscious.
This article was first published on Medium.