5-Minute Controlled Breathing Reduces Anxiety and Stress

Controlled breathing practices are often employed as tools to decrease stress or boost well-being. Although the act of breathing is something common and involuntary, it changes completely when we do it concentratedly and consciously. And even if you only practice five minutes a day, controlled breathing offers numerous benefits.


Controlled Breathing Techniques(1)

Researchers at Stanford University conducted a study with three different five-minute breathing exercises. They found that, done daily, they can be even more beneficial for mental health than the same amount of time spent in mindfulness meditation. Details of this finding were published in the journal Cell Reports.

Controlled breathing and mental health practices.

According to the findings, controlled breathing practices can work as an even more effective mental health tool than meditation. Thanks to previous studies, it is known that when we inhale we increase our heart rate, while when we exhale we decrease it.

“Controlled breathing has a direct influence on the heart rate, and can generate relaxing physiological and psychological effects more immediately. Mainly by increasing vagal tone during a slow exhale. Although mindfulness meditation generates a reduction in sympathetic tone in the long term, we are not talking about its main objective, much less the expected acute effect,” the researchers point out.

The study had a sample of 108 volunteers on whom three different breathing practices were evaluated: the first emphasizes prolonged exhalations and is called “cyclical sighs.” The second, known as “box breathing,” promotes the same duration between inhaling, holding, and exhaling. Finally, we have cyclic hyperventilation with retention, where inhalations are longer and exhalations are shorter.

On a daily basis, the volunteers reported their mood and had their vital signs taken: heart rate, breathing rate and sleep. Those who employed breathing practices for five minutes a day, every day, reported lower levels of stress at the end of the month. An improvement in both their mental and physiological health was also observed.

Read also: Technique to fall asleep in 2 minutes.

Controlled breathing vs mindfulness meditation.

The bottom line is that both meditation and controlled breathing provide positive results. However, it should be noted that the various controlled breathing practices revealed a greater positive effect than the group where mindfulness meditation was applied.

Controlled Breathing vs Meditation

According to the researchers, practicing conscious, controlled breathing can lead to more immediate results. Whereas the positive effects of meditation tend to take longer to manifest. The best example is box breathing, a technique used by the military to calm down in stressful situations. On the other hand, controlled hyperventilation is often used to reduce panic or anxiety attacks.

“When talking about breathing, specifically cyclical sighing, it is most effective in increasing the positive effects of mindfulness meditation,” the researchers explain. Clearly, more research is required to clarify the differences between controlled breathing and passive meditation. For now, everything points to the fact that intentional mindset techniques generate more immediate benefits to our health.



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