What if there was one simple, user-friendly way to promote well-being and decrease stress in any situation? An approach that was scientifically validated, with the capacity to make a difference almost immediately?
Actually, there is. And it's available to all of us at every moment.
Research shows that breath awareness is among the most effective and accessible tools for self-regulation and calming the nervous system.
We've all heard (and given) the advice "just breathe" or "take a deep breath." If you've tried this for a moment or two when you’re feeling scared or stressed, you've probably noticed that something shifts just a little bit.
But creating a practice of consciously focusing on your breath can make an impact not just on those occasional moments of panic but also on the inevitable ups and downs of daily life. The breath can be a powerful vehicle for carrying you through everything from difficult emotions and tense confrontations to intense cravings and physical pain.
According to Richard P. Brown and Patricia L. Gerbarg, authors of The Healing Power of the Breath, breathing practices "shift the stress-response system into a healthier balance by activating the healing, recharging part of the nervous system while quieting the defensive, energy-burning parts." In other words, the sympathetic nervous system (the primal "fight, flight, or freeze" system) takes a step back, and the parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and digest" or "calm and connect" system) is activated.
This has an immediate effect on all the body's systems. The heart, lungs, and brain become synchronized, resulting in increased blood flow and oxygen intake and inducing up to a tenfold improvement in heart-rate variability (a biological measure of stress resilience). All of this beneficial activity results in a stronger sense of calm and clarity — a perfect example of the feedback loop we call the mind/body connection.