Use the Physiological Sigh to feel calmer anytime.

If you are feeling stressed or anxious, the Physiological Sigh enables you to feel calmer in real time, and without having to disengage from whatever you are doing. You can do Physiological Sighs voluntarily, anytime you’re feeling too stressed, and you want to feel calmer.

Imagine how useful this is going to be.

What is a sigh?

A sigh is a long, deep breath. Sighs occur spontaneously every several minutes, about a dozen times per hour. Most of them are unnoticed. A sigh has two to five times the volume of a normal breath. We take our first sigh as a fetus in the womb as a sigh-like breathing movement, and sighing continues throughout our life.

The Physiological Sigh

The Physiological Sigh was discovered in the 1930s as a pattern of breathing that people go into spontaneously when they’re in claustrophobic environments or in deep sleep, when there’s a build-up of a gas called carbon dioxide in the blood stream.

How do you practice Physiological Sighing?

I learned about the Physiological Sigh from Dr. Andrew Huberman. You can watch Dr Huberman demonstrate the technique here: .

Here’s how to do it:

  • Inhale twice, in quick succession, through your nose (you’ll make a sniffing sound as you do so). The first inhale is longer than the second inhale. The second inhale is important because it enables you to inhale more oxygen and exhale more carbon dioxide.
  • Hold your breath for four seconds.
  • Now very slowly exhale through your mouth. Make a sighing sound as you exhale ‘Ahhhhhhhhh.’

Typically, both inhalations are through the nose and the exhalation is through the mouth. However, if you can’t breathe through your nose or your mouth for whatever reason do the Sigh all through your mouth or all through your nose.

Just one or two Physiological Sighs are sufficient to bring your level of stress and alertness down very quickly and allow you to feel calmer. However, you can do more if you want to.

Why does this breathing pattern work to reduce stress and anxiety?

Your lungs are essentially two big bags with millions of little air sacs. And if you were to lay out those sacks, their volume would be as big as a tennis court. And this large area allows both the intake of more oxygen but also the evacuation of more carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is the trigger for breathing: We don’t breathe because we need oxygen. We breathe because carbon dioxide levels get too high.

When we experience stress, the little sacs collapse. They deflate like a balloon. Physiological Sighs cause the sacs to reinflate and enable us to offload the maximum amount of carbon dioxide. The longer exhale also activates our Rest and Digest Response which switches off the Stress Response and puts us in de-stress mode. We feel calmer.

So, whenever you’re feeling stressed or anxious …

So, whenever you’re feeling stressed or anxious in any circumstance, simply inhale twice through the nose, hold your breath for four seconds, and then exhale long and slow through the mouth. And notice how much calmer you feel.

Source: Dr. Andrew Huberman

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