Reduce your stress level over the long term

"Most of the time, breathing is automatic, like digestion, heartbeat, and other bodily functions, but you can very easily take over and control your breath, which then affects your overall physiology and stress response," said Prof. MD David Spiegel, co-author of the study.

The effects of the exercise increased as the study continued, suggesting that a daily routine can lead to long-term stress reduction and an improvement in mood.

One of the best parts of cyclic sighing is that it can be done anytime, anywhere -- with zero cost and zero side effects. So, the next time you feel stressed, try taking a few deep breaths and experience the calming effects for yourself.

The study was published in Cell Reports Medicine.

Study abstract:

Controlled breathwork practices have emerged as potential tools for stress management and well-being. Here, we report a remote, randomized, controlled study (NCT05304000) of three different daily 5-min breathwork exercises compared with an equivalent period of mindfulness meditation over 1 month. The breathing conditions are (1) cyclic sighing, which emphasizes prolonged exhalations; (2) box breathing, which is equal duration of inhalations, breath retentions, and exhalations; and (3) cyclic hyperventilation with retention, with longer inhalations and shorter exhalations. The primary endpoints are improvement in mood and anxiety as well as reduced physiological arousal (respiratory rate, heart rate, and heart rate variability). Using a mixed-effects model, we show that breathwork, especially the exhale-focused cyclic sighing, produces greater improvement in mood (p < 0.05) and reduction in respiratory rate (p < 0.05) compared with mindfulness meditation. Daily 5-min cyclic sighing has promise as an effective stress management exercise.

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