The Dallas Morning News

Breathwork exercises can reduce anxiety


Most of us don’t think about our breathing, but if we put our minds to it, it can make us feel better.

A study in Cell Reports Medicine showed that just five minutes of breathwork each day for about a month could improve mood and reduce anxiety — and these benefits may be larger than from mindfulnes­s meditation for the same amount of time.

“We’re always busy doing instead of being,” said David Spiegel, an author of the study. “And it’s a good idea to just take a few minutes to collect yourself, commune with your body and help it prepare to deal with whatever you want to deal with.”

In a randomized controlled study of 108 adults, the researcher­s compared three different breathwork exercises, in which participan­ts deliberate­ly guided their breathing in various ways, and mindfulnes­s meditation, in which people observed their breathing but didn’t try to control it. The participan­ts did the breathwork at home, following video instructio­ns.

After 28 days, participan­ts in both the mindfulnes­s meditation and breathwork groups reported having more positive feelings and fewer negative ones compared with before they began their respective practices. Participan­ts in both groups also reported reduced feelings of anxiety.

“That’s not bad for five minutes a day,” Spiegel said. “It seems that practicing some control over your respiratio­n is a kind of entry into one way of controllin­g your autonomic activity.”

The positive effects of breathwork took time to kick in: The more days the participan­ts spent doing their breathing exercises, the better they felt each successive day.

When we feel anxious, we tend to breathe faster.

Breathwork exercises allow us to consciousl­y slow down our breathing. And research shows it can not only affect mood but also physiology by inducing a more relaxed physical state.

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