Shortness of breath while speaking is unhealthy!

The more that I’ve had a chance to closely observe people’s breathing patterns, the more I’ve come to realize that, despite how “natural” breathing is to us, most of us do not breathe correctly. Poor breathing contributes to poor health, causing many chronic conditions and exacerbating others. This holds especially true for those with asthma and other pre-existing respiratory issues. I myself once had poor breathing habits. I never understood the extent to which this impacted my health until I researched this issue. I wanted to find breathing techniques to better control my asthma. And what happened to me was truly transformative — so much so, that I’ve devoted a good part of my time sharing this with others.

Healthy breathing takes training and conscious effort. And the sad reality is that very few of us breath correctly. Gasping or sighing while speaking has become the new normal. Since virtually  everyone does it, no one even stops to think that it’s an issue. The breathing that we often see today is totally out of sync with how we are supposed to breathe. Today, people can’t talk fast enough. Everyone is so anxious to get all the words out of their mouth when talking to others. It is commonplace to speak as much as we can before taking a breath. If there isn’t enough “air” to finish what we are saying, we compensate by speeding up at the end to get everything in. The way that we breathe and talk is part and parcel of our fast-paced modern world, a world in which we constantly seeking to do more — including talk more — in less time. This has many negative consequences, not the least of which is creating stress for both the speaker and listener. What’s the rush? What’s so bad about speaking at a rate that matches your breathing? Do a few more seconds really matter?

Healthy breathing is 100% nasal breathing all the time, 24/7, while we’re awake and while we’re asleep. No exceptions, and that includes when speaking. Controlled speaking to maintain controlled breathing is especially important for anyone who spends a good part of their day speaking — teachers, therapists, business managers, lawyers, public speakers, and any occupation that involves communication with others throughout the day. I’ve heard clients say how absolutely exhausting it is to speak all day. The good news is that there are ways to address this problem.

And its not just frequency, the number of words per minute coming out of your mouth. Another major component of speaking that affects out breathing is the volume of your voice. Increasing volume can also add undue stress to speaking. Sometimes it’s necessary to talk loudly, but more often than not, we speak louder than necessary, and we do so for extended periods of time. Is it any surprise that we are exhausted from speaking at the end of the day? Speaking louder than necessary not only revs you up, but also everyone else listening to you. Loud noises stimulate us. It’s why many gyms pump out loud music and why political rallies start off with blasting music. It’s all to get people amped up. And these poor breathing patterns seem to be contagious.

Extreme stress is often the root cause of poor breathing patterns. Stress affects us in myriad ways. The negative effects of stress on our physical and mental health are numerous, but one that is not talked about much is how stress influences how we breathe and how we talk. We all know what it’s like to listen to someone who is “stressed out.” All of the common signs of stress such as ruminating negative thoughts and muscle tightness impact our breathing.To make matters worse, it is a negative synergy. Our excessive breathing exacerbates our physical stress, which makes our breathing even worse. All of this can manifest in different ways such as asthma attacks, exhaustion, fatigue, and a depressed immune system that increases the risk of many health issues.

By relaxing our breathing and mimicking calmer breathing patterns, we can actually calm our entire nervous system, which in turn, calms our breathing and gives us the foundation we need to put us on a positive path toward improved health. Do a little experiment of your own. Look at how others are breathing. You’ll see that most breathe through their mouth while talking. This constant hyperventilation throughout the day causes a tremendous loss of carbon dioxide, which is responsible for causing fatigue and other health problems.

Nasal breathing and learning how to breathe through your nose while speaking is a big step toward healthy breathing patterns. It sounds almost too simple to say, but our mouth is meant for eating and drinking, not for breathing. Our mouth was meant as an emergency valve in those rare emergency situations when we needed more air intake than our nose could provide. Too many of us over rely on our mouth for breathing. Admittedly, nasal breathing 24/7 and nasal breathing while speaking is not easy to learn because of years of bad habits. But it can definitely be done, and the rewards are well worth it.

You can lean to master proper breathing and how to speak naturally while breathing quietly through your nose. Natural breathing often requires you to speak more slowly, to speak more softly, and to speak less. Often, when speaking, you can make your point more concisely. Choose your words and avoid unnecessary repetition. To make the same point with less words improves communication. Also, take a block of time during the day to not talk at all. A few quiet hours could be just what your body needs to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.