“Take a deep breath” is a phrase we’ve all heard. It’s also a natural reaction when we feel stressed or overwhelmed. 

But what is it about the act of focusing on our breath that calms us down? What exactly is happening in the body and mind?

Inside our bodies, we all have an autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system communicates with the body to control all of the automatic functions; like blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. 

When we experience stress or anxiety, our brains sound the alarm through the ANS and our bodies quickly shift into “fight or flight” mode. Our heartbeat increases, adrenaline is released into the bloodstream, and our breathing becomes more rapid. 

This process was very helpful during the evolution of humans, it allowed us to survive dangerous situations by running away or fighting for survival. 

Today, however, the chances of us running into a large predator that wants to eat us are…much smaller. 

But, our brains are still hardwired to detect and ready the body for dangerous situations. 

One of the best ways to combat this reaction is by using a breathing exercise. 

Researchers have long studied breathing techniques and one thing is clear; they are very beneficial.

Studies show that controlling your breathing lowers your heart rate, blood pressure, and lowers the levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body. 

Breathing exercises also stimulate the vagus nerve which is responsible for our bodies’ “relaxation response.” 

Stimulating the vagus nerve can also reduce inflammation, increase our quality of sleep, reduce anxiety and depression, and improve our mood. 

The fact is that just about every single one of us can benefit in some way from trying out a breathing exercise.

We challenge you to do a breathing exercise by clicking here.

And if you want to learn more about breathing, here is a free list of 7 breathing techniques that promote relaxation.