How to reduce anxiety and improve your mood with a 5-minute daily practise

A recent study showed that a daily 5-min practise of mindfulness meditation or controlled breathing (‘breathwork’) was effective in reducing anxiety and improving mood.

But one particular type of breathwork, known as ‘cyclic sighing’ had the strongest effect on mood. And this effect increased with the number days practised.

In the study – from researchers at Stanford University – 114 students were instructed to perform 5 minutes of either mindfulness meditation or one of three different types of breathwork every day for a month. Mood and anxiety were assessed before and after the daily practise.

The three different types of breathwork were:

  • Cyclic sighing: A double inhale followed by a prolonged exhale
  • Box breathing: Equal duration of inhale, breath hold, exhale, breath hold
  • Cyclic hyperventilation with breath hold: Similar to Wim Hoff or Tummo breathing

Just 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation or any of the breathing exercises improved mood and reduced anxiety.

Let’s say that again. Spending just 5 minutes a day on mindfulness meditation or breathwork is enough to significantly reduce anxiety and improve mood. They take very little time or effort, they’re safe, they’re free, and they’re effective. There are not many health interventions about which you could say that!

But if you’re going to choose one, this study suggests that cyclic sighing is the best. It had a similar effect on reducing anxiety as the other tools, but a greater effect on lifting mood. And this effect increased over time. Here are the cyclic sighing instructions direct from the published paper:

“Participants were informed they should sit down in a chair or, if they prefer, to lie down, and to set a timer for 5 min. Then they were told to inhale slowly, and that once their lungs were expanded, to inhale again once more to maximally fill their lungs – even if the second inhale was shorter in duration and smaller in volume than the first, and then to slowly and fully exhale all their breath. They were told to repeat this pattern of breathing for 5 min. They were also informed that ideally, both inhales would be performed via their nose and the exhale would be performed via their mouth, but that if they preferred, they were welcome to do the breathing entirely through their nose. They were also informed that it is normal for the second inhale to be briefer than the first.”

It’s worth trying, isn’t it?

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