Looking for something that you can do anywhere, anytime, costs nothing, and can improve your short and long term physical, mental, and emotional health?
Our autonomic nervous systems, comprising the “fight or flight” sympathetic and “rest and digest” parasympathetic branches, affect everything from digestion to immunity (1).
Sympathetic dominance and parasympathetic suppression play roles in all sorts of disease, including Type 2 diabetes (2), heart failure (3), depression (4), cancer (5), and inflammatory bowel disease (6).
You can use a variety of simple breathing techniques, acting on what’s called the “vagus nerve”, to inhibit sympathetic action and promote parasympathetic action in practically no time at all (7).
Just 10 minutes of practicing prolonged exhalation can significantly activate parasympathetic activity, as measured by heart rate variability (8).
Breathing slowly, at five to six breaths per minute, can have the similar effects (9).
Breathing slowly combined with prolonged exhalation can bring relaxation, stress reduction, mindfulness, and positive energy in only five minutes (10).
Even five minutes of just breathing slowly can lower blood pressure and heart rate (11).
40 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing can increase insulin, reduce glycemia, and reduce reactive oxygen species production after a meal (12).
An hour of diaphragmatic breathing after a training session can increase melatonin and decrease cortisol, lowering levels of oxidative stress (13).
20 15-minute sessions of diaphragmatic breathing over eight weeks can improve attention, mood, and cortisol levels (14).
Deep breathing for 90 minutes a week for 10 weeks can decrease heart rate and salivary cortisol levels, while improving mood and perceived stress (15).
The natural melatonin release from slow, deep breathing might even help you fall asleep without the drowsiness, headache, and dizziness of supplemental melatonin (16).
Pick any one or more of these techniques to start benefiting right now.
It only takes a single breath to get started.
From there, find what works best for you.
Start where you are.
Do what you can.
It’s all you can do.
You’ve got this.