When we’re feeling stressed or anxious, we’re told to take deep breaths to calm ourselves down. But why does that work? It turns out that it’s a brain thing. Scientists studied mice in order to better understand what our brain does when we take slow, measured breaths. And it turns out it actually affects the neurons in our brains. Cool!
The scientists found that how we breathe changes the messages that get sent to our brain. Breath directly affects the brain through a mechanism called the respiratory pacemaker. The study author, Mark Krasnow explains:
So your breathing pattern can determine the chemicals your brain sends out.
When we take deep breaths, we are telling our brains to enter a state of calmness. That’s why yoga, meditation, and other mindfulness practices are so effective in helping us calm down. Controlling your breath is directly telling your brain to stop feeling anxious or panicky. We have the power control our brains…how amazing is that!?
If you want to get better at using breathing to help control your mood or induce calm, there’s lots of ways to get started. You can check out these deep breathing exercises. Maybe consider trying a cool meditation app, since a lot of those focus on breath. While obviously deep breathing can’t cure severe anxiety, it looks like it’s a tool just about any stressed person should have!