Research Highlights the Benefits of Sighing in Managing Anxiety during Stressful Times

Scientific studies have demonstrated that sighing can effectively reduce stress. (Photo via

Stanford University School of Medicine’s latest research suggests that sighing has a potent stress-reducing effect that can generate positive thinking, rejuvenate the body and mind, and boost concentration. The research has been published in “Cell Reports Medicine”.

Taipei, Taiwan (WS News Publisher) – When you feel stressed, do you frequently let out a sigh? Sighing is often regarded as a negative or depressing reaction. Orientals even believe that sighing will take away happiness or it is easy to get old. But according to the latest research results from the Stanford University School of Medicine, sighing has a good stress-relieving effect. It may be more effective than deep breathing and meditation. The results of this study have been published in “Cell Reports Medicine”.

The study was led by David Spiegel, director of the Center on Stress and Health at Stanford University School of Medicine and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. The 114 people participating in the study were divided into 4 groups, and each took mindfulness meditation or 3 different deep breaths, including cyclic sighing similar to sighing, cyclic hyperventilation of slow inhalation and rapid exhalation, and box breathing. Box breathing, also known as the 444 breathing method, is to inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, and finally exhale for 4 seconds.

Subjects were divided into groups of 5 minutes per day for 28 days. The research team observed the participants’ emotional changes, breathing state, anxiety level, sleep quality, and heart rate variability after each breath or meditation, to understand whether different breathing methods can reduce stress as much as meditation.

The results show that these four methods all have the effect of improving anxiety and negative emotions, relieving stress, and helping sleep, and the effects of the three breathing experiment groups are better than meditation, especially the effect of the sighing group is the most obvious.

Professor Spiegel mentioned that when we breathe slowly and deeply consciously, we can immediately relieve anxiety and stress. The reason is that by adjusting the breathing rate, the parasympathetic nerves can be activated and our brains begin to relax, thus slowing down the heart rate and blood pressure, helping sleep, and promoting digestion.

When we are in an emotional state of fear, we unconsciously gasp for breath, activating the sympathetic nervous system, ready to choose to fight or flee. After we slow down the breathing rate and sigh at a slower rate of an exhalation than inhalation, the heart rate will calm down along with the breathing rate, which has the effect of soothing us. At the same time, oxygen will enter the blood of the fine alveoli along with the breath, reopen the collapsed alveoli during tension, restart breathing, and the body can resume normal work.

Dr. Cynthia Ackrill, a stress management expert, believes that as long as we regulate our breathing, no matter which one of these four methods is used, it can help us shift our attention to breathing and initiate mindful thinking. A study by the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium found that when experimenters were shown pictures that would cause stress if they were paired with deep breathing at the same time, the tension could be reduced, and if they held their breath, they would not be able to relax. This is the benefit of changing the breathing pattern. After sighing, you get positive energy and your muscles relax.

Neuroscientists have also discovered that when we breathe consciously and attentively, the operating parts of the brain begin to change when the breathing pattern changes. Our emotions will calm down with breathing and we can better connect with the brain. The performance of concentration and control will improve, and we will have the ability to manage emotions.

So when you’re in a tense mood, maybe it’s time to stop and catch your breath. Sighing and getting rid of old thoughts that are negative attitudes may help you reverse your emotions, overcome stress, and after your body and mind reset, you can hit a wonderful comeback shot.

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