Deep Breathing Really Works

Deep Breathing Really Works

by Kara Ferreira

You might think that “take a deep breath” is just a saying that people use when they want to help you relax. The truth is, there is real science behind it!

Taking a deep breath or changing your breathing pattern slows your heart rate and can stimulate the vagus nerve, which runs from your brain stem to your abdomen. The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system, so triggering it actually helps you to calm down.

Inhaling stimulates your heart rate, while exhaling slows it down. When you are feeling anxious, focus on your exhale more than your inhale. Slowing down your exhale will produce a greater calming effect.

Specific breathing exercises can have an even deeper calming effect. Two to try are:

Alternate nostril breathing:

Take two fingers, most commonly your thumb and your pinky finger (like the ‘hang loose’ sign), and raise them to your nose. Use your thumb to block off one nostril while you slowly inhale through the other one, hold your breath at the top and use your other finger to block off the nostril you just took in air with. Then, exhale slowly through the other nostril. Continue to alternate inhaling and exhaling with just one side of your nose.

4-7-8 breathing:

This is a great way to make sure that your exhale is lengthening to get that calming effect. Inhale to a slow count of four, hold your breath for seven and then exhale for a count of eight. Continue.

We hope that these breathing exercises will help you to manage stress and anxiety. If you need more tools and are you’d like to explore working with a therapist, contact us at (734) 323-4897 or for more information. Our practice, based in Novi, Michigan, is home to a variety of psychologists with a wide range of expertise, and our intake specialist will help to match you with the right one. We also offer teletherapy and can see anyone in the state of Michigan.

Kara is a G3 Contributing Writer


Harvard Business Review, Why Breathing Is So Effective at Reducing Stress

Very Well Mind, Breathing Techniques to Relieve Anxiety