The Power of Fresh Air
27 September 2023

Embrace the Great Outdoors: The Power of Fresh Air

Ahhhh Air. The very source of what keeps us all alive. It’s the first thing I personally think of when I am stressed or overwhelmed, “I need fresh air”. Many of us spend the majority of our time indoors, surrounded by artificial lighting and controlled environments. While this lifestyle offers comfort and convenience, it often means we miss out on the numerous benefits of Outdoor Air. Nature has an incredible power to rejuvenate and heal. In this article, we will explore the many advantages of spending time in the great Outdoors, as well as looking at the effects on our nervous system, and a tiny bit on air pollution and its effects on our health, and for those wanting to know more about breathwork as a tool, I’ve included a section at the end on the health benefits of breathwork.

Have you ever thought about speaking, to yourself or others, and thought, “I’m wasting my breath” and actually you’re not wrong – it takes a lot of energy to breath! Something that just occurs naturally (if we’re lucky) and automatically via the autonomic nervous system, it works hard to keep all systems in flow therefore to become mindful of your breath/breathing and how you’re using it has so many benefits. So pausing, becoming mindful, observing where you’re asserting your energy is one of the more positive reflections for your health, both physically and mentally. There’s a beautiful quote by Richard Rudd (whom is known mainly for his incredible book called The Gene Keys), “I breathe therefore I prosper”; this is from his book ‘The Art of Contemplation’, which I highly recommend, and he talks into the idea of contemplating your breath. As we grow into adults we forget how to breathe deeply as we develop stress patterns in our body and mind. Another excerpt from Richard’s book, “Breath is the equivalent to freedom. The deeper we breathe, the freer we feel”. And who isn’t seeking freedom? I don’t know about you but I’ve never quite sourced freedom thus far through external means such as money, jobs, new experiences or even some spiritual practices, hinting perhaps that our freedom lay within, and I believe can be accessed through our breathing patterns. Making quality of our Air something to address as these attempts at freedom never quite fully deliver us something truly satisfying, like a big, conscious, DEEP belly breath of Air.

Outdoor Air

So what are some of the benefits of Outdoor Air? I never thought you’d ask…

Improved Physical Health

One of the most immediate benefits of Outdoor Air is the positive impact it has on our physical health. The Air outside is typically fresher and cleaner than indoor Air, which can be filled with pollutants from cleaning products, furniture and electronics. Outdoor Air is rich in oxygen and lower in contaminants, making it easier to breathe and promoting better lung health. Moreover, exposure to natural sunlight provides us with essential vitamin D, which is crucial for the absorption of calcium and bone health. Sunlight also boosts the production of serotonin, a mood-enhancing neurotransmitter that contributes to overall well-being.

Mental Well-Being

The Outdoors provide a natural playground for physical activity. Whether it's hiking, biking, jogging, swimming, or simply walking, being in an Outdoor environment encourages physical movement. This can help combat sedentary lifestyles and reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems associated with inactivity. Outdoor activities also offer a change of scenery and a break from the monotony of indoor spaces, making exercise more enjoyable and sustainable. The fresh Air and natural beauty can be strong motivators to get moving and stay active.

Increased Physical Activity

The Outdoors provide a natural playground for physical activity. Whether it's hiking, biking, jogging, swimming, or simply walking, being in an Outdoor environment encourages physical movement. This can help combat sedentary lifestyles and reduce the risk of obesity, heart disease, and other health problems associated with inactivity. Outdoor activities also offer a change of scenery and a break from the monotony of indoor spaces, making exercise more enjoyable and sustainable. The fresh Air and natural beauty can be strong motivators to get moving and stay active.

Enhanced Immune System

Exposure to Outdoor Air can strengthen the immune system. When we spend time Outdoors, we encounter a variety of microorganisms from soil, plants, and the environment. This exposure can help our immune systems develop and adapt, making them more robust and better equipped to fight off illnesses. Additionally, Outdoor activities often involve physical contact with natural elements, such as soil and water, which can introduce beneficial microorganisms that promote a healthy gut microbiome. A balanced gut microbiome is linked to improved immune function and overall well-being.

Stress Reduction

One of the most celebrated benefits of Outdoor Air is its ability to reduce stress. The natural world has a calming effect on the human psyche. The sound of rustling leaves, the sight of flowing water, and the scent of fresh flowers all contribute to a sense of tranquillity and relaxation. Studies have shown that spending time in nature lowers cortisol levels, the hormone associated with stress. This reduction in stress can lead to lower blood pressure, improved sleep, and a decreased risk of stress-related health conditions. You will most likely find that I repeat this benefit of ‘stress reduction’ quite often in the coming information but that’s simply because Outdoor Air, mindful breathing and breathwork are all aimed at and proven to lower stress! It’s amazing really, so something worth the repeat.

Art of Breathing

The Art of Breathing

Deep breathing has profound benefits on the nervous system, particularly in promoting relaxation and reducing stress. The nervous system is divided into two main branches: the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). These systems play a crucial role in regulating various bodily functions, and deep breaths have distinct effects on each:

Activating the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS):

Deep breaths stimulate the PNS, which is responsible for the "rest and digest" response. Here are some benefits of activating the PNS:

Stress Reduction: Deep breathing triggers the relaxation response, leading to a decrease in the release of stress hormones like cortisol. This helps reduce overall stress levels.

Lowered Heart Rate: Deep breathing can slow down the heart rate, which is especially beneficial for individuals with high blood pressure or anxiety-related heart palpitations.

Enhanced Digestion: The PNS stimulates digestion and nutrient absorption. Deep breathing before or after meals can aid in digestion and prevent gastrointestinal discomfort.

Improved Immune Function: Chronic stress can weaken the immune system. By activating the PNS, deep breathing can help support a stronger immune response.

Enhanced Mental Clarity: The PNS promotes a sense of calm and mental clarity, which can improve cognitive function and decision-making.

Balancing the Autonomic Nervous System:

Deep breathing helps balance the autonomic nervous system, ensuring a healthy equilibrium between the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. This balance is crucial for overall well-being and adaptability to stressors.

Emotional Regulation: Deep breathing can be a powerful tool for emotional regulation. When faced with strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, or sadness, taking deep breaths can help calm the nervous system and reduce emotional reactivity.

Pain Management: Deep breathing can modulate the perception of pain. It may not eliminate pain entirely, but it can help individuals better cope with discomfort and improve their pain tolerance.

Improved Sleep: Practicing deep breathing before bedtime can help prepare the body for rest by activating the PNS and reducing the "fight or flight" response. This can lead to better sleep quality and a more relaxed bedtime routine.

Enhanced Resilience to Stress: Regular deep breathing practices, such as mindfulness meditation or diaphragmatic breathing exercises, can improve an individual's resilience to stress over time. It equips individuals with a tool they can use in stressful situations to stay calm and composed.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression Symptoms: Deep breathing techniques are often incorporated into therapies for anxiety and depression. They can help alleviate symptoms, reduce the physiological response to stress, and promote a sense of well-being.

Improved Focus and Concentration: Deep breathing can enhance cognitive function by increasing oxygen flow to the brain and reducing mental fatigue. This can lead to better focus and concentration.

Incorporating deep breathing exercises into your daily routine, whether through meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few moments to practice mindful breathing, can have a profound impact on your nervous system's health. These practices are accessible, easy to learn, and can be done virtually anywhere, making them a valuable tool for managing stress and promoting overall well-being.

Air Pollution

A Little bit on Air Pollution

Air pollution is a pressing global issue with dire consequences for human health, the environment, and the economy. The quality of the Air we breathe is non-negotiable. The quality of the Air we breathe is vital to our health and the health of the planet. However, in recent decades, the issue of pollution has become increasingly pressing, posing a significant threat to both the environment and human well-being. Air pollution is a leading environmental health risk. The inhalation of pollutants like fine particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and ozone (O3) can lead to a range of health problems. These include respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, lung cancer, and even adverse effects on the nervous system. This isn’t to scare-monger you into leaving your city jobs or houses and trek into jungles or countryside (but no judgement if you wanted to!), its merely just to highlight the importance of getting fresh Outdoor Air, which we can sometimes over look when we’re in the middle of routines, on auto-pilot. I’m sure we’ve all been guilty of over looking the importance of fresh Air from time to time.

The benefits of Outdoor Air are undeniable. From physical health improvements to mental well-being and stress reduction, spending time in natural settings offers a wealth of advantages. I know I’ve repeated myself numerous times in this article in the different sections, mainly around the health benefits of Outdoor Air and stress reduction, these things however apply to the various applications of breath and the importance of being mindful about the time that we spend breathing mindfully, intentionally and where we breathe it! It's essential to prioritise Outdoor activities and incorporate them into our daily lives, with or without ‘excuses’ to be out and about such as having dogs or getting children outside, even if it means taking a short walk in the park or sitting in our gardens. Embracing the great Outdoors is not only good for our bodies but also for our souls, offering a much-needed respite from the demands of our lives. So, the next time you have the chance, step outside, take a deep breath, and savour the benefits of the fresh Outdoor Air.

Breathwork as a Tool

Breathwork as a Tool

A big way to use our breathing as a tool for healing or self-exploration that has become much more popular is indeed breathwork, a term that encompasses various techniques and practices focused on conscious and intentional breathing and carries a multitude of holistic values. These practices have been utilized for centuries in different cultures and traditions, and they offer a range of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits. I’ve even used breathwork for digestive issues when I’ve eaten too much or highly sugary food is disturbing my digestive system, some mindful deep breathing has always sorted me out. Here are some of the holistic values of breathwork:

Stress Reduction: Conscious breathwork techniques, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing or mindful breathing, can activate the body's relaxation response. This helps reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels, calming the nervous system, and promoting a sense of peace and tranquillity.

Emotional Release: Breathwork can facilitate the release of repressed emotions and emotional blockages. Techniques like Holotropic Breathwork or Transformational Breath® aim to access and process deep-seated emotional experiences, providing a cathartic and healing release.

Improved Mental Clarity: Breathwork practices often involve focused and mindful breathing, which can enhance mental clarity and concentration. Regular practice can help clear mental fog, increase awareness, and boost cognitive function.

Enhanced Physical Health: Proper breathing techniques improve oxygenation of the body's cells and tissues, leading to better overall health. Oxygen is vital for cellular energy production and detoxification. Additionally, breathwork can help with respiratory conditions and increase lung capacity.

Emotional Regulation: Breathwork can assist in managing and regulating emotions. Techniques like the Wim Hof Method have been shown to positively impact mood, reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, and increase emotional resilience. Of course this isn’t the only method that exists, although it’s a good one, it’s about finding one that’s easy to follow and resonates with you that’s most important.

Enhanced Self-Awareness: Deep and intentional breathing can bring individuals into the present moment, fostering self-awareness. This self-awareness can lead to better self-understanding and personal growth.

Spiritual Connection: Many traditional and modern breathwork practices are used as tools for spiritual exploration and connection. Breathwork can be a pathway to altered states of consciousness, helping individuals access deeper aspects of themselves or the universe.

Enhanced Energy Flow: Breathwork is believed to promote the flow of vital life force energy (prana or chi) throughout the body. This can contribute to improved vitality, a sense of well-being, and greater spiritual awareness.

Release of Tension: Breathwork techniques can help release physical tension and muscle tightness. This is particularly beneficial for those dealing with chronic pain or holding stress in their bodies.

Improved Sleep: Regular breathwork practice can improve sleep quality by calming the nervous system, reducing racing thoughts, and promoting relaxation.

Mind-Body Connection: Breathwork encourages individuals to become more attuned to the mind-body connection. This awareness can lead to better self-care practices and a deeper understanding of how emotions and thoughts impact physical health.

Self-Healing: Some practitioners believe that breathwork can activate the body's natural healing mechanisms. While it's not a replacement for medical treatment, breathwork can complement traditional healing modalities.

Breathwork offers a holistic approach to well-being, addressing the physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual aspects of an individual's life. Whether used as a stress-reduction tool, a means of emotional release, a path to spiritual exploration, or for general health improvement, the holistic values of breathwork make it a valuable practice for many people seeking a more balanced and harmonious life. It's essential to explore different techniques and find the one that resonates most with your unique needs and goals. If breathwork takes your fancy or you’re just intrigued to try it out, there are a number of videos on YouTube (or where ever you source your content) you could try.