Monday, January 11, 2016

A breath of fresh air? None of the presidential candidates are even close

This article originally appeared in the Viet Tide on Nov. 20, 2015. It was written by Ness White and has since been updated accordingly.

Along the campaign trail over the past few months, some of the mainstream presidential candidates from either side of the aisle have been called a “breath of fresh air.” Let’s take a look at that word “breath” for a moment.
Recent mainstream news articles have looked at the importance of breathing in our everyday lives, particularly highlighting how we breathe. For example, a Yahoo health article published in November detailed how breathing is one of the most important things we can do, yet most of us do it wrong — when stressed we tend to breathe quickly and shallowly from our chest, which actually increases the stress, rather than taking slow breaths through our abdomens and calming ourselves down — and don’t focus much of our attention on it during our day-to-day activities. Another article published on AOL news takes a different approach on breathing, focusing more on the fact that people who work in stuffy office settings aren’t breathing enough oxygen and are therefore not able to use their brains to capacity.
What does any of this have to do with the presidential election? Well, if breathing — particularly the way we breathe in what has often been called a “high-stress” American culture — is as important as it is, why are none of the candidates talking about it? Shouldn’t such an important topic be a campaign platform? If breathing correctly can make such an impact in our lives, shouldn’t our candidates be helping us figure out how to do it? Are they even able to do it themselves?
And what about the candidates’ campaign staffs that help the candidates make critical decisions — like which platforms the candidates should focus on? Are they stuck in offices most of the day unable to get adequate air and thus not thinking as effectively as they could? And what about the stress the staffs and their candidates might be under during campaign season? Are the staffs and their candidates able to regulate their breathing as to remain calm and not perpetuate the stress they encounter?
Going even further than the candidates and their campaign staffs, what about the stress candidates cause among voters? A Truth Media article published earlier this month details how candidates tend to focus on issues that arouse fear and anger in voters. Studies have shown that fear can trigger the fight, flight or freeze stress responses that can have detrimental effects on our health if prolonged. These responses are characterized by quick and shallow breathing, among other effects. While fear is one of the triggers of stress, it is also considered one of the ingredients to get people to the voting booth where they will vote for the candidate who promises to alleviate their fears and, therefore, their stresses — helping voters to breathe a bit easier, we might say.
But after the voting is done, does our stress go away? Do the promises our candidates make actually come to fruition or do we still have the same fears — or more, worse ones — as before they took office?
During the upcoming presidential debates, let’s see if we can observe the candidates and how they’re breathing. Before talking, do they take quick, shallow breaths to respond to a question or do they appear to pause and become calm before responding? While responding, do they give themselves enough time to breathe in between words and phrases or are they talking too quickly for a breath to sneak by?
Further, let’s observe our own breaths as we listen to the candidates’ words. Are we becoming more stressed or are we calming down? Maybe this exercise can help give us a better idea about which candidate(s) can actually help us breathe a bit easier.
That is, if any of them can.

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