Why breathing is exploding in popularity as an effective self-care tool
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Why breathing is exploding in popularity as an effective self-care tool

September 7th, 2022,

4 min read

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More and more people are dealing with anxiety, insomnia, burn-outs, depression, or 'simply' a lot of stress. Taking good care of our mental health should be a priority for everyone, although most of us are always searching for the most effective solution. Breathwork is the rising star in this area. Let’s find out why.

While yoga, meditation, and mindfulness have rapidly gone mainstream in recent years, the same is happening now with breathwork. Our own breathing, as a tool to improve health and mental balance, manage stress levels and increase joy in life. Why is it suddenly so popular?

Breathwork: consciously controlling your breath

To answer that question, let’s look at the definition first. Breathwork is a widely used term and it comes in many different shapes. It can be described as “any form of conscious breathing in order to influence certain processes in body and mind”. This is in contrast to meditation, where you do not control your breath, but passively observe it.

Think of 'simple', slow breathing exercises that you can do at home for more relaxation, inner balance or energy. On the other hand, you can also use breathwork - under the guidance of a certified breathwork coach - as a tool for personal development, trauma processing and transformation. This often involves the use of 'connected breathing', as seen in various popular methods such as Wim Hof, Transformational Breath and Rebirthing Breathwork.

Breathing as a new way of dealing with stress

Breathing is a life function that is directly linked to our well-being. "Every time you exhale, you stimulate the parasympathetic (resting) nervous system, your heart rate slows down and your blood pressure decreases," says professor Steven Laureys, renowned neurologist and author of The no-nonsense meditation book and ditto sleep book. "In addition, it is also a useful anchor to hold your attention and get a grip on your monkey mind - that permanent stream of thoughts which sometimes turns into overthinking and anxiety, keeping you awake in bed at night."

‘We cannot tackle anxiety, insomnia and burnout with medication alone.’

By breathing more slowly, we can activate the body's recovery and relaxation response, making it easier to relax, calm down and sleep. Slow breathing helps to instantly take the edge off our day, as it works like a remote control for the nervous system. Why are we (only) discovering this now? Laureys: "Studies show that the need to deal with stress in a different - non-pharmaceutical - way is increasing rapidly, especially since COVID-19. I also notice this at my consultations as a neurologist. It is not only with tranquilizers that we must tackle anxiety, insomnia and burn-out. Each of us has the opportunity, and the responsibility, to work on our mental well-being through changes in lifestyle, including relaxation and breathing exercises.

Everyone benefits from conscious breathing

Nikki van der Velden, founder of The Breathwork Movement, an online platform dedicated to the power of breathing, also notices that the public is starting to discover and embrace the breath as an effective self-help tool. Conscious breathing is extremely powerful, on a physical, emotional and mental level. Many modern, often stress-related, illnesses can be prevented or even cured with it.

"However, many people are not aware of this, since very little is shared about this natural ‘medicine’," Van der Velden points out. "Information about breathing as a self-help tool came almost exclusively from the scientific corner, or from the alternative one. By shedding more light on it, and sharing as much knowledge and inspiration as possible, a wide audience can discover that truly everyone can benefit from conscious breathing."

The rise of science-based health-tech

In line with the rise in popularity of breathwork, more and more apps, tools and wearables that support breathing exercises are appearing on the market. This can be of great added value in the context of guidance, daily reminders, and (bio)feedback.

At moonbird, we have developed a specific device that intuitively guides you through calming breathing exercises. Professor Steven Laureys sees this as a useful tool for those who, like many of his patients, wonder whether they are 'doing it right', and how they can control their breathing better themselves. Laureys: "Besides the fact that smartwatches and other wearables can be useful tools, the breath pacer of moonbird goes one step further. It is a device that you hold in your hand while it contracts and expands, presenting the ideal breathing rate while it provides feedback on your heart rate."

By now, thousands of satisfied users have found their way to moonbird and more than 300 coaches, psychologists and hospitals in Belgium and the Netherlands work with the tool to help clients manage stress and improve their mental well-being. This again shows that conscious breathing is discovered by more and more people, and that the right tools to accompany this are of great added value.

Wondering what moonbird can do for you? See how breathing with moonbird works.

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