I hope you’ve been enjoying this Boost Your Metabolism Program. We’ve now reached the eighth and final tip.
To assist with weight loss and/or to avoid weight gain, this program gradually adds healthy habits to your lifestyle. These tips can help increase your metabolic rate – which also involves how efficiently your body utilizes the
food you eat.
I encourage you to practise each of these tips for longer than a week. Longer is less overwhelming and probably more permanent! It’s best to follow the tips in numerical order (because I may refer back to past tips). Therefore, if you are visiting for the first time . . . Begin with the first tip here: Tip #1. To see all the tips, go to the "menu" on this blog page or under search topics click on Boost Metabolism Program. Incidentally, each succeeding tip is linked at the bottom of every "tips" article.
Now, if you’re ready for the 8th tip . . .
Tip # 8: Take 10 deep breaths every night at bedtime.
In this tip, we address two factors that can affect the speed of our metabolism:
stress and sleep loss.
Many of us do not inhale and exhale properly. Constant daily stresses and feeling anxious can condition us to breathe quickly and incompletely. It’s a natural stress response. Unfortunately, if incorrect breathing is done too often, a habit develops. We become prone to regularly taking quick, shallow breaths, filling only the upper chest area, which, over time, will weaken the respiratory muscles (which also contributes to a slow metabolism). Breathing naturally should also involve filling the abdomen (or ‘belly’) and then emptying it completely.
Clinical Psychologist Rolf Sovik, suggests optimal breathing – when at rest, not exercising – is diaphragmatic (from the "belly"), nasal (for both inhalation and exhalation), smooth, deep, even, quiet, and free of pauses.
Deep breathing can increase oxygen consumption and cellular metabolism (reactions in the cell that produce energy). Regular practice will also strengthen the respiratory muscles improving their ability to move optimally.
Taking deep breaths to learn to breath more efficiently can also indirectly speed your metabolism in two other ways . . .
By helping to reduce the effects of stress. Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your body and brain, stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. This can help control and reduce the secretion of stress hormones. Ongoing, poorly-managed stress increases the production of the stress hormones, including cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite and cravings. Stress can induce constant fatigue and therefore reduce our desire to exercise, even though gentle to moderate exercise can be a powerful stress-buster. Stress can also slow digestion, affecting how efficiently we metabolize our food.
By Improving quality of sleep. Taking deep breaths relaxes muscles and lowers blood pressure, because deep breathing activates our natural relaxation response. This may help us fall asleep much easier and perhaps longer and deeper. Sleep loss and poor quality sleep increases the hormones that make us feel hunger, reduces the hormones that make us feel full, and impedes the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH) which helps us hang on to our metabolism-boosting muscles! It also weakens our immune system. As a result, lack of sleep will increase our risk for illness, cause us to overeat, gain weight, and lose muscle that we need to keep our bodies more active (muscle is much more active than fat, therefore a higher ‘muscle to fat ratio’ means a faster metabolism).
The end of the day is an ideal time to practise deep breathing. At the very least, focusing on deep breaths will bring your awareness away from your worries and quiets your mind. This can help you relax. It’s the perfect way to end a busy, stressful day!
Short term, you achieve relaxation, restful sleep, and reduce the release of stress hormones. And if you regularly practise deep breathing, you’ll train your body to properly breathe into the abdomen not the upper chest. Proper breathing offers so many health benefits, besides offering a metabolism boost!
Deep breathing suggestion for Tip # 8 . . . at bedtime, lie comfortably in your bed, placing one hand on your abdomen and one on your chest.
INHALE through your nose for a slow count of three to four, filling first your abdomen (belly) and then your chest with air. You should feel both rise under your hands.
Option: hold for two counts before exhaling.
EXHALE through your nose* for a slow count of six to eight, or however long you need to completely expel the air from your body. Visualize touching your belly button to your spine!
Option: Hold for two counts before inhaling again.
REPEAT. Take up to ten deep breaths: more if you are comfortable with it. You may even find you fall asleep (or get very drowsy) before you complete the ten breaths!
The breathing pattern described above is just one suggestion. There are many others. Feel free to use any breathing method you use now or may have used in the past; perhaps from a yoga class. Here's one recommended by a psychologist: (Breathing exercise starts at 9:00 in this video). While you deep breathe, try to focus and concentrate on your breathing. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your breathing. It’s especially important not to let your mind wander to unpleasant events that happened during your day. Remember, your goal here is to relax and induce sleep. Worry tomorrow.
*Inhale/exhale via the nose or the mouth? When deep breathing, inhaling is usually done through the nose. Exhaling for relaxation is also usually done through the nose, as mouth exhaling may risk activating the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response). This is because we inhale and
exhale through the mouth when we need more oxygen, such as when we are exercising or when angry, fearful, or anxious. Therefore, some sources say it's best to breath in and out via the nose when we are breathing to relax. Yet others say exhale through your mouth if it feels more comfortable for you.
In any case, it may be wise in this particular situation (at bedtime),
not to encourage mouth breathing before you fall asleep! Mouth breathing while you sleep dries out the mouth, encouraging bacteria and plaque build-up.
Deep breathing during the day? That’s your choice. It may help speed your transition to breathing properly. Throughout the day, occasionally stop what you are doing and observe how you are breathing (are your breaths short and fast? Are you breathing into the upper chest only?). Make alterations with several practice breaths. Two or three deep breaths, by the way, will calm you just before you do or say something you may regret later!
Tip: When practising deep breathing at bedtime, lift a finger with each breath to keep track of the number of breaths you take. And another tip; put a note by your bedside to remind yourself to do this every night.
Continue with the other tips you’ve learned so far in this 'program.'
Have fun with this tip. But if you do not want to follow it, you certainly don’t have to. Continue as you have with the past tips. Hopefully many of them have now become habit for you.
So that’s it. We’ve reached the end of the Boost Your Metabolism Program.
However, this program doesn't have to stop here. I hope you continue practising these tips at a slow, gradual pace. Incidentally, it’s not true that it takes only a month to establish a habit: in one study, it took 66 days. Remember, we’re all different, unique . . . and very special.
There are many other factors that can affect our metabolism. We haven't covered all possible 'tips' in this program. And it’s difficult in a group effort like this, to create ways to fit the tips into everyone’s day – considering the many individual preferences, schedules, and limitations.
Incidentally, here are a few other ideas you can choose to work on in the future to boost your metabolism . . .
Lack of sleep (try a relaxing herbal tea or hot bath before bed).
Learn to prepare healthy, quick and easy meals and snacks in advance to make healthy eating more convenient. Here are some ideas: meals, snacks.
Thoroughly chew every mouthful of food before swallowing.
Practise eating only when hungry.
Stop eating when you feel comfortably full or satisfied.
Eat smart carbs only – no processed refined ones (or) whole foods only – no packaged, processed items.
Eat healthy fats only (nuts, seeds, avocado, etc).
Reduce alcohol consumption.
Meditate or sit quietly for five to ten minutes every day.
Throw in another quickie exercise into your day; jump as high as you can five times, do ten push-ups off the kitchen counter every time you load or unload the dishwasher, etc.
You can continue on your own with some of the suggestions above, or perhaps work on other general lifestyle changes you personally need: how about reducing your salt consumption? Would you like to improve your flexibility? What about cutting down on the amount of sugar you put in your coffee? Or just cut down on coffee? Perhaps you need to practise being tolerant of that one really annoying relative (after all, you need to change your mindset, because you can’t change them). A good start: Focus only on what is good about them, even if it’s just that they are wearing a sweater in your favourite colour.
Attempt only one habit at a time and practise it until you feel it’s become a comfortable part of your daily routine. And that may take as long or longer
than a month! Small steps are best: you’ll avoid failing – or feeling
overwhelmed. Recall the penny analogy mentioned in an earlier tip or
John Grisham's advice.
Or remember the analogy about making a new, permanent path (habit)
through a field of tall grass (your lifestyle). It takes time and diligence to stop the grass from springing up again so that you can easily see and follow the path you've created.
Challenge yourself regularly to develop a new habit (or way of thinking). Change is good! And remember, this is an investment toward a healthy future for you. It’s the best kind of life insurance you can get.
I wish you a very healthy and happy life.
Have a short question or comment about this particular tip? Feel free to e-mail Eve at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you need help with coaching through any lifestyle change or dietary goal visit Eve's nutrition web page. Eve also offers nutrition talks to family and friends in your own home, to your group or organization, or to staff at your place of business. (Skype sessions also available.)
Eve Lees is a Certified Nutrition Coach, a former Certified Personal Trainer, a Health Speaker, and a Health Writer for several publications. She has been active in the health & fitness industry for over 35 years.