I’ve told many people to take slow, deep breaths to help you quickly get in a more calm state of mind. Our breathing naturally becomes more shallow when we feel stressed. This breathing pattern, in turn, makes us feel anxious so we take shorter, lighter breaths. We will continue in this until something breaks the cycle.
Deeper breaths provide more oxygen and stimulate the part of our nervous system that sends out peaceful signals. It doesn’t matter whether we are already in a place of calm and heaving a sigh of relief or whether it is a self-induced deep breath to break the pattern. The result is the same – actual relief and relaxation.
“If you sit and even just take five or 10 deep breaths and really try to just relax your breathing, that can be tremendously helpful,” says Mary Coussons-Read, PhD, professor of psychology and health and behavioral sciences and associate dean of the University of Colorado in Denver.