Whenever you feel too stressed out or your mind seems to be spiraling out of control, chances are, you are advised to take deep breaths or focus on your breathing pattern for some time. If you believe differently, then let us tell you that, according to researches, taking deep breaths is indeed a useful and holistic way of reducing stress.
The uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the rising atrocities in our society have incited a lot of stress in people nowadays. Besides, the hassle of domestic and professional commitments adds to the pre-existing anxiety and worsens things. Studies have shown that being stressed about something doesn’t help the situation in any way. It interferes with our ability to put our best efforts at work and thus, reduces productivity by a considerable margin.
Two recently published studies made it very clear that breathing exercises prove to be the most fruitful in diminishing immediate and long-term stress. The first study was conducted at Yale, and it had mindfulness-based stress reduction, foundations of emotional intelligence, and breathing exercises as its three stress-release programs. The participants were randomly delegated to practice one of these three programs. As per the results, those who turned to the breathing exercises experienced the most significant mental health and social connectedness benefits.
In the second study conducted by the University of Arizona, two methods were put across to relieve the participants’ stress. One revolved around breath meditation, and the other was a bit more conventional and about working with cognitive strategies that would change the thoughts about stress altogether. This study too reinforced that breathing was more helpful in negating the immediate effects of stress, conscientiousness, and mood, and its impacts lasted longer than three months. Participants were assigned high-performance tasks both before and after the workshops, and as expected, those who signed up for the cognitive workshop showed signs of elevated breathing and heart rate. As opposed to this, the group that took up the breathing exercises was relatively steady in their breathing and heart. This implied that the program had imparted them a buffer against uncontrollable stress related to waiting for something that would inevitably be very excruciating. Other than being positive throughout the entire task, the breathing participants also spurned better results and completed their assignments in lesser time.
As per research, the different breathing patterns that we follow are associated with the distinct emotions we feel. For instance, when you are happy or cheerful, your breathing will be slow, deep, and regular. Whereas, if you are incredibly upset or angry when things are not right, your breathing will be irregular, short, shallow, and fast. Stress impairs our prefrontal cortex, responsible for rational thinking, and logic doesn’t help us regain control. This is why you cannot think straight or be emotionally intelligent, per se, when you have anxiety. Thus, when you go back to following the breathing pattern that corresponds to joy and glee, you start sensing those emotions again.
Changing your breathing rhythm or slowing it down indicates relaxation. A slower breathing rhythm stimulates the vagus nerve, which connects the brain stem to the abdomen, and decelerates the heart rate. Activating the parasympathetic nervous system calms our body down and hands back the wand of rational thinking.