“When you’re under stress, your sympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which is associated with stress-related symptoms such as faster breathing, heart-rate elevation, irritability, elevated blood pressure, anxiety and body tension,” says Lin. That’s part of what is known as the fight or flight response, she says. Slowing down and engaging in deep breathing basically counters the sympathetic nervous system, she says.

“When you engage in deep breathing, your abdomen is soft as you engage your diaphragm and take a deep breath in with the intention of really filling up the whole lung with air,” Lin adds. “You’re slowing down the heart rate, reducing your blood pressure, and relaxing your muscles.”

When you take that deep breath in, it’s triggering the vagus nervous system in the body, says Lin. The vagus nerve runs from the brain stem to the abdomen and is a main component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for the body’s “rest and digest” activities, notes StatPearls.

“Triggering your parasympathetic nervous system helps you start to calm down. You feel better, and your ability to think rationally returns,” she says.

As with exercise or meditation, deep breathing will be most beneficial if you treat it as a daily practice, says Lin. “It can help in the moment — I’ve had patients who were anxious lower [their] blood pressure and heart rate significantly with just a minute of deep breathing. However, you will have the most benefit if you practice regularly,” she says. This will help your body will recognize what you are doing and be more responsive,” she adds.

Ready to take a deep breath and jump in? Research shows deep breathing can offer benefits for several health conditions. Here are some examples.

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