Woman at computer breathing calmly

Breathe Effortlessly

Optimize your performance and prevent computer-related injuries with Healthy Computing Tips. Each week we provide hints to help you stay healthier while working.

The moment most people begin keyboarding or mousing they increase their breathing rate. While working at the computer, adults’ breathing rate increases by 30% to 18 breaths per minute, while the breathing rate of young boys playing computer games increases by 68% to 25 breaths per minute. This rapid breathing often contributes to sub-clinical hyperventilation, increased neck and shoulder tension and general fatigue. Learn to relax and regenerate when you Breathe Effortlessly.

How to Breathe Effortlessly

Begin by observing your breathing rhythm and movement as you sit quietly and while you work. Sense whether you have more movement in your chest or in your abdomen. Most adults tend to breathe faster and higher in their chest as they work at the computer, which can lead to gasping, sighing, tiredness and shoulder/neck tension.

To breathe effortlessly, slow your breathing rate and lower the location of the movement. Imagine that your lungs are like a balloon located in your abdomen. When you inhale, allow the balloon to expand and when you exhale allow it to contract. As you practice this breathing remember to:

  • Loosen your belt so that your abdomen can expand
  • Exhale very quietly with a slight smile
  • Whisper “Haaaah” very softly as you exhale
  • Allow the exhalation time to be twice as long as the inhalation time
  • Focus on exhalation and forget about inhalation
  • Imagine exhaling the air down and through your arms, wrist and hands and out your fingers

Practice this slower breathing many times at the computer. Observe yourself while working and purposely exhale slower and as you inhale, feel your abdomen expand.

OPTIONAL: Breath and Regenerate

At home, practice breathing while reclining. Lie on your back with a pillow under your knees and with your feet shoulder width apart; let your hands rest palms up about 6 to 12 inches from your sides. Place a 3 to 5 pound weight on your stomach (a bag of rice or beans works well) and then, as you inhale push the weight up and away from you as your abdomen expands. During exhalation allow the weight to push your abdomen downward as the air flows out. As you continue to breathe allow the exhalation to go slower and slower and gently focus your attention to the sensations of movement in your abdomen. If your attention drifts, bring it. Continue this for 20 minutes.

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Written by Erik Peper PhD

Explore Wellness in 2021