Conversations surrounding mental health usually center around therapists and prescription drugs, but nowadays, it's become synonymous with self-care, fitness, and wellness. Particularly following a pandemic, 57% of Americans increased their focus on health by 51% since 2019. For many, that looks like smoothies, Soul Cycle, and commitments to gyms and trainers but this week's guest, Robert Bent, offers what he calls "The first step to a happier life" through breathwork.
Bent, having struggled with ADHD, addiction, and mental health issues, discovered the world of breathwork after being inspired by Wim Hoff. He then went on to become founder and CEO of Inward Breathwork (IB), located in Canada. Bent's mission is to help people understand the power of proper breathing techniques and create a community of acceptance and gratitude that eliminates loneliness.
"30% of North Americans right now have zero friends to confide in.", says Bent. He believes that people should find personal happiness before addressing their loneliness which is likely why 14% of North Americans already meditate. "But what about the other 86%?" Bent says, "To even admit vulnerability, the struggle is really difficult and kind of looked down on in society."
Bent is transforming how people look at getting fit and mental health by making it "cool." IB incorporates a Burning Man sensibility with meditation, dance, and fun, proving that meditation is not merely lying listening to ocean sounds.
He explains how specific methods of breathing influence our flight or fight responses as well as our sleep and overall energy. "Our brain doesn't know the difference between real stress and perceived stress.", says Bent, "Blood flow goes to the brain, there's an adrenaline response, you're ready to run, you're ready to fight, which is great; you're ready to concentrate. But that's not great to be in that state all the time."
Bent calls this, "Overbreathing" and he says we're in an epidemic of it, which is compounded by both the processed foods and technology we consume. Diet and exercise can keep your body healthy. Still, over-breathing adds stress to the system, affecting people emotionally, but Bent is confident that the once uncanny idea of breathwork is catching on. "I think you're going to have diet, exercise, sleep, and breath, as like the common pillars of health in the next couple years."
He created his organization as a safe space to breathe, socialize and decompress from psychedelic medication therapy in an atmosphere free from substances. His centers fuse SoHo style with fitness coaching complete with ice baths, saunas, and classes on-site or online. "We want to solve loneliness; we want to do it in a healthy way. We want to make it cool. And within that, we want to teach people mental health practices."
Bent explains this simple process of guided breathwork meditation that reaps excellent rewards that begin with music. "In the background, there's someone breathing for you to follow, "He says, "All of a sudden, 10 minutes, and you're like, whoa, I'm feeling energized." Soon your brain shuts down and opens to emotion and gratitude.
Bent, who is opening an additional Toronto location soon, says, "We have the largest breathwork library in the world right now, a few 100 videos, structured programs courses, that lives online and breathwork.com, and we're just trying to get the word out. Bent believes that his success in this field will result in less loneliness and a more positive spin on mental health and meditation. "Psychedelic medicines, quarterly, bi-annually plus some type of daily mindfulness practice, whether it's breath work, nature walks or meditation are absolutely key to dealing with overwhelm in today's society."