LUNG FITNESS Episode 2: The Psychology of Breathing

Breathing has a strong influence on your physiology, which has a flow on effect to your psychological state – how you feel, your moods, energy level and emotions. When you breathe well, the ideal balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your body has a profound effect on many systems. There are two main systems highlighted here – the Autonomic Nervous System and the Vagus Nerve.

The Autonomic Nervous System:
This regulates all the organs and systems in your body. One way of looking at this system is to talk about it as working in two zones: the GREEN and the RED zone. The biological terms for these zones are the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) GREEN and the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) RED.

  • GREEN ZONE: (PNS dominant): You are calm, so you can rest, digest and reproduce. Your thinking is clear and your breathing is regular: nose, low (ie tummy) and slow.
  • RED ZONE: (SNS dominant): You are in a state of fight flight and flee. Your breathing is irregular, erratic, faster and shallower and your thinking is muddled.

Both are essential to daily living and the ideal is to move between the two phases with balance as the situation is needed. Unfortunately, we know most of us living in the 21st Century spend a lot of time in the RED ZONE. We are often addicted to stress. This is unnecessary and unhealthy for many reasons such as a compromising your immune system. Signs and symptoms of too much RED ZONE include poor sleep, exhaustion, brain fog, excessive anxiety and irritability.
Check yourself on the graph of symptoms below. This can give you an indication of where you are at this moment. 


By simply paying attention to the way you breathe, without even changing it, you can begin to calm your body and settle your thoughts. Imagine if your breathing pattern was in tip top shape.

Secondly, the Vagus nerve:
This is an important nerve that innervates and controls many systems in your body. It influences the GREEN ZONE, affects blood pressure, heart rate, gut health, sweating, digestion, and speaking. Breathing is the key to controlling this nerve. We know slow, rhythmic, diaphragmatic breathing i.e. breathing from your belly rather than shallowly from the top of the lungs, stimulates and tones your Vagus nerve.

Here is a quick super helpful tip:

“When in doubt Breathe out”

Breathing out calms the mind and sends a message to our brain everything is OK.

For more help and information on how you can relearn to breathe well, have a look at our website or contact the clinic.

Katrina Milicich – Physiotherapist, Bradcliff Breathing Practitioner