Need to calm down quickly?
You can use your breath to interrupt the buildup of physical stress and tension in a few seconds
Forget the well intentioned advice to take a deep breath when you feel yourself getting upset. You need to do the opposite. You should take a deep exhale. More specifically, you should sigh deeply two or three times.
As it turns out, a sigh is a fundamental life-sustaining reflex that acts as a way to inflate the tiny sacs in your lungs (the alveoli) where oxygen and carbon dioxide pass in and out of the blood, according to Jack Feldman, a neurobiologist at UCLA explains. It keeps our lungs working properly, and that’s why on average, our brain triggers a sigh about a dozen times per hour in humans. Periodic sighs bring in twice the volume of a normal breath and they serve as a “reset button” for your respiratory system.
More than a regular sigh
Normal sighs happen unconsciously, but as it turns out, we also have another type of sigh that is hardwired into our system which can be used intentionally as an “off switch” to stress when you feel yourself getting frustrated and agitated.
That sigh breath, which Dr. Huberman, a neuroscientist and professor at the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine calls a physiological sigh, is a bit different and is triggered automatically in people experiencing claustrophobia to induce calm, but they also happen during sleep or periodically during the day.
But since we have voluntary control over our breath, it’s a breathing pattern that you can use as an instant tranquiliser anytime you need to calm down quickly. It’s a tool you have with you at all times and it takes less than a minute to do!
The key this tool comes down to taking 2 quick inhales through your nose, followed by a slow exhale through the mouth. It is thought to promote the right balance between oxygen and carbon dioxide in your lungs and bloodstream and activate the parasympathetic system, which will interrupt the upward spiral of stress and promote a sense of calm.
How to use a physiological sigh to calm down quickly
- Inhale through your nose
- Top that first inhale with another quick inhale
- Exhale through your mouth slowly
- Repeat 3 times, and a minute or so later, you’ll feel calmer!
That’s it! It’s that simple.
If you want to see a demonstration from Andrew Huberman himself, check out his Instagram post below.
For a shorter version, you can take a look here:
And if you find yourself in a constant state of stress, you might want to take a more comprehensive approach to your emotional state which I discussed in this article about fighting off stress and anxiety or sign up now for a complimentary “Success Now” session.