A simple breath routine where the exhales are longer than the inhales can be powerful enough to soothe your nervous system and calm your mind.
In times of stress, your sympathetic nervous system triggers your fight-or-flight response. Times like this can speed up your heart rate as well as your breathing and pumps stress hormones like cortisol through your bloodstream.
When you breathe out for a bit longer than you breathe in, known as parasympathetic breathing, the vagus nerve that runs from your neck down through the diaphragm tells your brain to turn down the sympathetic nervous system and to turn up the parasympathetic nervous system.
The parasympathetic nervous system controls your rest, relax, and digest response, which means while it’s dominant, your breathing slows, your blood pressure lowers, and your heart rate drops.
Put it into practice:
Sit still with a straight back in a comfortable place. Close your eyes and begin breathing through your nose.
Inhale for a count of two. Pause at the top of your inhale for a single count.
Exhale gently, for a count of four. Pause at the bottom of your exhale for a count of one.
Keep your breathing even and smooth. If the two-four count feels too short, try increasing the breath lengths to four in and six out, six in and eight out, and so on. (If longer breaths create any anxiety, don’t push yourself. The most important thing is that the exhale is longer than the inhale.)
Set a timer and breathe this way for at least five minutes to see a difference in your mood.