It only took me 14 seconds to deal with a stressful situation.
I took my own advice, actually. Driving in a snowstorm recently, I almost plowed into a massive snowbank and almost hit a truck. After the incident, my pulse was racing, but I knew I had to get moving again or I would be a sitting duck on the side of the road. I used a technique I explained a while ago that involves breathing in and out quickly in succession.
To be honest, while I know it does work as a way to calm down, I never knew why.
Writing in the Journal of Neurophysiology, researchers explained that they could see the actual brain activity that occurs when you use controlled breathing to reduce stress.
As they state in the article using some pretty technical terms: "Using intracranial recordings in humans, we show neuronal activity to track the breathing cycle throughout widespread cortical/limbic sites. Volitional pacing of the breath engages frontotemporal-insular cortices, whereas attention to automatic breathing modulates the cingulate cortex. Our findings imply a fundamental role of breathing-related oscillations in driving neuronal activity and provide insight into the neuronal mechanisms of interoceptive attention."
Now, I don't claim to understand all of that (my brain hurts a little reading about it), but pictures tell a much richer story. Visit the site to see them; there is documented evidence of brain changes that occur when you breathe with intention.
I liked the phrase "attention to automatic breathing," which implies that extra focus on how you are breathing--a sustained inhale and exhale--isn't just pseudo-science or a possible stress reliever; scientists have been able to see where the brain activity changes.
I've been testing this theory out in a whole new way this month.
A stationary bike called the CAR.O.L. uses an interesting method to help you get fit. The bike itself uses artificial intelligence to monitor your heart rate and pedaling, adjusting the resistance you need for a better (and shorter) workout. I like the way it works, partly because the exercises are so short and I'm usually pressed for time.
The company claims a short workout--in some exercises, pedaling hard for only 40 seconds--can compete with a 45-minute jog.
I'm testing that out, but another part of the workout is that the app shows a scroll bar to help you breathe in, hold your breath, and breathe out. It works. During my sessions, I feel less stressed about all of the pedaling and tend to actually enjoy my time on the bike.
I've also used controlled breathing before tense meetings and before resolving a conflict. It's interesting how you knew it works, but now there is research to back it up.
Science has a lot more to prove. I'm very curious about how most of us are on our phones so often that we are only paying partial attention to the world half the time--we need more research on how that impacts our brain. As for the breathing?
Everything in me already knew there was some deep science behind it.
Now we have the photo evidence.