|Take A Deep Breath - Does It Really Work?
““Sometimes you just need to take a deep breath.” — Unknown
Breath is essential to life. It is the first thing we do when we are born and the last thing we do when we leave.
In between that time, we take about half a billion breaths. What we may not realize is that the mind, body, and
breath are intimately connected and can influence each other. Our breathing is influenced by our thoughts,
and our thoughts and physiology can be influenced by our breath.
Nobody wants to be told they are not doing the essentials correctly, but I think it is time we talked about the
fact you are not breathing right, under certain circumstances. Born breathing, we are naturally equipped with
an easy and accessible strategy for anxiety prevention, stress reduction, conflict resolution and self-
regulation. Chances are, many people would benefit from a few lessons to use their breathing to its full
Researchers have documented the benefits of a regular practice of simple, deep breathing which include:
Reduced anxiety and depression; lower/stabilized blood pressure; increased energy levels; muscle
relaxation; and decreased feelings of stress and overwhelm. Within the medical community, there is a
growing appreciation for the positive impact that deep breathing can have on the physiology, both in the mind
and the body.
“Breath is the link between mind and
body.” — Dan Brule
As well as reversing the physical stress
response in the body, deep breathing
can help calm and slow down the
emotional turbulence in the mind.
Breathing can have an immediate effect
on diffusing emotional energy so there is
less reactivity to our emotions.
Science has shown that the advice to
“take a deep breath” may not just be a
cliché. Simply put, changes in breathing
— for example, breathing at different
paces or paying careful attention to the
breaths — were shown to engage
different parts of the brain. Our ability to
control and regulate our brain is unique:
e.g., controlling emotions, deciding to
stay awake despite being tired, or
suppressing thoughts. These abilities
are not trivial, nor do humans share
them with many animals. Animals,
generally, do not alter their breathing
speed volitionally; their breathing
normally only changes in response to
running, resting, etc.
“She took a deep breath and let it go.” —
A regular daily practice of deep breathing
is one of the best tools for improving your
health and well-being. Performing a
breathing technique twice daily for only
three to five minutes can produce long-
term benefits. You can also use them
any time you are feeling stressed or
notice that your breathing has become
constricted. By training your body with a
regular practice of deep breathing, you
will begin to breathe more effectively
even without concentrating on it.
Yoga is a good place to start. The basis
for all deep breathing practices
originates in the science of yoga,
specifically the branch of yoga known as
pranayama. The word pranayama is
derived from two Sanskrit words: prana
(life force) and yama (control). By
controlling the breath, you can influence
every aspect of your life.
Now take a deep breath in ...
A recent study, at North Shore University Hospital, began by observing brain activity when patients were breathing normally. Next, the patients were
given a simple task to distract them: clicking a button when circles appeared on the computer screen. This allowed for observing what was
happening when people breathe naturally and do not focus on their breathing. Next, the patients were told to consciously increase the pace of
breathing and to count their breaths. When breathing changed with the exercises, the brain changed as well. Essentially, the breathing
manipulation activated different parts of the brain.
The findings provide support for the advice individuals have been given for millennia: during times of stress, or when heightened concentration is
needed, focusing on one’s breathing or doing breathing exercises can indeed change the brain. Now, this research puts science behind that
practice. Research indicates that breathing helps the brain! There are both physical and psychological benefits from deep, calm breaths.