Slower breathing can reduce anxiety and fear

2022-11-06 18:57:41
Slower breathing can reduce anxiety and fear

There are no shortage of anxiety-inducing situations to keep us up at night, from the stress of our own day-to-day lives to the collective concerns of disease outbreaks, political unrest and disturbing news.

When you begin to feel the weight of these stressors, psychologists say feeling calmer is a matter of something you likely take for granted: your breath.

Change it and you can change your emotions by altering the signals that go to the brain, said Dr. Patricia Gerbarg, an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at New York Medical College and coauthor of “The Healing Power of the Breath.”

“The brain listens to the lungs, so the way that we breathe has a tremendous effect on how the brain functions for many different mechanisms,” Gerbarg told TODAY.

“The messages from the respiratory system are very powerful and very rapid, and we think they have top priority.”

Brain scans show slower breathing reduces anxiety and fear, while increasing the ability to reason — so the thinking mind restrains the emotional part of the mind, helping a person evaluate the situation better, Gerbarg noted.

Deeper, slower breathing can also let your body know to come out of fight-or-flight mode, said Anne Bartolucci, a clinical psychologist, adjunct assistant professor at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta and author of “Better Sleep for the Overachiever.”

Here are two breathing techniques you can employ right now to destress and relax.

Belly breathing

Inhale slowly with the belly for four seconds. The abdomen should rise, while the chest moves minimally or not at all.

Exhale for four seconds or longer.

Do this practice every day, working up to five minutes of belly breathing. Also use it in the moment when you need to relax.

Box breathing

Start in a seated position and exhale all of your air.

Inhale for a count of five.

Hold your breath for a count of five.

Exhale for a count of five.

Hold your breath for a count of five.

Keep the pattern going and repeat this cycle five times.



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