Sighing Your Way To Better Mental HealthDec 07, 2022
How good does it feel to let out a deep sigh?
Whether it's a sigh of relief, a sweet sigh when someone does something kind for you or a sigh that comes from frustration, this natural urge is a magic bullet when it comes to releasing symptoms of anxiety, stress, overwhelm or panic.
Sighing can be an instant tranquillizer for when we are feeling pent up and it is the single fastest way to down-regulate an activated nervous system and studies have shown that humans sigh on average 12 times per hour, that's every 5 minutes!
Much like with yawning, it is a breath pattern that shouldn't be suppressed yet, culturally many of us were taught it was rude. Perhaps it showed we were frustrated, annoyed, exacerbated or incensed.
As well as it being a natural urge it can also be created into a conscious practice to enhance the power and impact of this breath.
In the 1930s, sighing was discovered as a pattern of breathing that people go into when they are in deep sleep, in claustrophobic environments, when crying or under extreme stress.
A 2014 study in ‘Progress in Brain Research’ explained three key functions of the sigh
- By taking a full breath in, immediately followed by a top-up breath, it supports healthy lung and alveoli function
- Sighing helps to regulate a dysregulated nervous system, so it can support you to go from feeling anxious to calm in a few simple breaths
- It helps to reset and regulate respiration
Sighing is also a very simple and effective breath for releasing tension in your chest, diaphragm and neck area.
And Although deceptively simple, it has many other benefits!
- It instantly reduced tension by temporarily raising your blood CO2 levels
- It can take you out of an internal stress loop by having you focus on ‘doing’ something practical which ALSO has physiological benefits
- It allows you to build a fluid flow of breath (when we are stressed and anxious we often hold our breath )
- Sighing allows you to stay connected to what you are doing without disengaging - whereas MOST stress reduction practices require that you step away from the stressor and stop what you are doing to focus on them
So a physiological sigh is a moderate (rather than very deep) inhale through the nose followed by a short ‘top up’ breath, and a fairly prolonged and slow exhale through the mouth and even as little as 1 - 3 big sighs are enough to bring your level of stress and alertness down and allow u to feel calmer
Try it right now and see what a difference it makes!