Using the Breath to Control the Mind

Using the Breath to Control the Mind

Today we explore how to use the breath to control the mind.

Believe it or not, anxiety and stress are completely normal human reactions.

When our brain detects something that is potentially dangerous it activates the fight or flight response.

Hormones like adrenaline and cortisol course through the body, our heart rate increases as does our breath rate. Muscles tense up and we begin to sweat.

This well-orchestrated physiological process is very effective at keeping us alive. Our brains have been conditioned over thousands of years to repeat this in order to survive.

However, these days, so many of us experience these reactions at the wrong time.

Sitting in traffic knowing we will be late, preparing for a vital presentation, worrying about what the future may hold. These are (usually) not life and death situations, but our minds can’t always tell the difference. 

When we’re hit with this wave of overwhelming worry, we often try and calm ourselves down.

But in the heightened state of anxiety, trying to control the mind with the mind is kind of like trying to grab onto smoke; it doesn’t work out so well. 

Thankfully, there are mechanisms in the body we can tap into that physiologically slow the whole process down, allowing us to regain control. 

The Physiological Sigh

Taking control of ourselves during a period of stress and anxiety is an incredibly powerful tool, and it starts with the body. 

Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Huberman says that “When we can’t control the mind, we must do something mechanical. We must breathe.” 

There are dozens of breathing techniques and patterns that work wonders for reducing stress and anxiety. 

But when you are deep in that moment of anxiety there’s one exercise, in particular, that can stop the stress train in its tracks; it’s called the Physiological Sigh. 

The Physiological Sigh is a technique that was discovered by doctors in the 1930s. It has recently been brought back into the spotlight after research done at UCLA and Stanford University. 

It works by reinflating tiny sacs in the lungs called alveoli, which increases oxygen intake and C02 off-gassing. 

The technique also emphasizes the exhale. When we exhale, the diaphragm moves upwards which gently squeezes the heart. This causes the brain to signal the body to reduce the heart rate.

Dr. Huberman calls the Physiological Sigh “the fastest real-time tool for stopping stress and anxiety.” 

It’s a very simple technique that anyone can do that allows us to use the breath to control the mind.

We lay it all out for you right here.  

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