A simple 5-minute breathing exercise that will make you happy (and it’s better than mindfulness!)
- Participants did one of three breathing exercises daily for five minutes
- Their moods were measured using a positive and negative affect scale
- Cyclic hyperventilation exercises saw the largest increase in positivity
From HIIT to shaking it up in dance class, exercise has long been known to work wonders for the mind.
But now researchers have discovered another way to improve your mood – through deep breathing exercises.
And it may be even better than mindfulness, which has already been shown to help us ‘enjoy life more’, according to the NHS.
Experts at Stanford University found that people who spent five minutes doing deep breathing exercises every day for a month saw their feelings of anxiety improve and their mood improve more than those who just meditated.
A group of researchers at Stanford University in the US found that doing simple breathing exercises for just five minutes every day can boost your mood more than mindfulness meditation.
The experiment asked 108 participants to practice one of three breathing exercises or a mindfulness meditation for 5 minutes a day at home, at a time that worked best for them.
The first exercise – cyclic sighing – was performed by 30 people. It took them inhaling slowly, before taking a shorter breath again to fully inflate their lungs and then exhaling as long as possible.
About 21 participants tried box breathing instead. This means inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and holding the exhalation again.
The final exercise – cyclic hyperventilation – asked 33 subjects to inhale deeply and exhale 30 times shorter before exhaling fully.
5-minute simple breathing exercises
To reap the benefits of mindfulness, study participants tried three simple breathing practices that have been shown to help relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
periodic sigh Inhale slowly, before taking a shorter breath again to fully inflate both of their lungs. Then exhale for as long as possible.
Ideally, inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
breathing box: Take four breaths before taking a deeper breath. Once your lungs are full, exhale as slowly as possible through your nose or mouth.
Periodic hyperventilation: Inhale deeply and exhale 30 times shorter before exhaling fully.
After 30 breaths, exhale to completely empty the lungs for 15 seconds, before restarting.
The last 24 participants were enrolled in a standardized mindfulness program. They did not exercise any specific control over their breathing, but did notice their breathing to help focus their awareness on the present.
After a month, the participants completed two questionnaires to assess the effect of exercise on their anxiety levels.
The results were compared with two questionnaires they all took before the 28-day trial.
Writing in the journal Medicine Cell ReportsThe researchers said the effects were “significantly higher” in the breathing groups.
The NHS describes mindfulness as “paying more attention to the present moment – to your thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you”.
Deep breathing exercises can be a type of approved exercise.
Anxiety is intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. It often results in a racing heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired.
According to mental health charity Mind, six per cent of people in the UK suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
It’s also estimated that about 6.8 million adults in the United States — or 3.1 percent of the population — suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.
In response to the study findings, Stanford University researcher Dr. Melis Yilmaz Balban said: ‘Our understanding of the effects of breathing on the brain and body should allow for specific, scientifically supported breathing practices in order to improve stress tolerance and sleep, enhance energy, focus and creativity, and regulate emotional and cognitive states.
She added that breathing practices that focus on exhaling over the inhalation portion of each breath are “more effective in reducing anxiety and improving well-being.”
The researchers also assessed whether the study participants noticed any changes in their sleep patterns.
But after checking how many hours they slept, their sleep efficiency and their overall sleep score, the team at Stanford saw no significant changes in any of the groups.
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