A New Study on Meditation & Breathwork
Full transcription available at the bottom of this post
Ya, I know you do, we all do. CHRONIC stress. Did you know that that chronic stress is drastically interfering with your ability to lose weight and get healthy? Chronic stress contributes to heart disease, insomnia, poor immune function, inability to lose weight, skin issues, anxiety, low energy, poor recovery, etc. etc. It's obvious that managing your chronic stress is a BIG DEAL!
You've probably heard that one of the most effective ways to deal with stress is meditation, but have you tried to meditate? I find it SUPER difficult, and I've tried several times to start a habit of meditation with no success. I just don't stick to it. If that sounds like you too, I've got geed news! A new study out of Harvard has found that certain breathing exercises are actually MORE effective than mediation at improvements overall in heart rate variability, improved sleep, reduced stress, and improved mood.
In this episode I'm going to break down the study, what they looked at, what they found and how YOU can incorporate these super easy breathing exercises right now to start managing your stress.
In writing and recording this episode I'm thinking it might be awesome to have a stress management challenge! If learning about stress and learning some effective tips and strategies to manage stress more effectively sounds cool to you let me know! Send me a DM or email if you're interested and if there's interest I'll put it together!
And it's not too late to join HMHB for 2023, so if you think you're ready for more, then the HMHB Program and Membership is ready for you!
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Show Notes & Transcript:
Welcome back to the podcast, my friends. For most of you actually, I'm just gonna say for all of you, it's a pretty safe bet all of you are affected by chronic stress and chronic stress is a major hindrance to your ability to lose weight, and meet the health goals that you're going for. Chronic stress is affecting your mind and your body every day in some pretty negative ways. But most of us are really bad at dealing with and managing our stress, which is why I'm so excited to share with you a study that was just published by Stanford, all about stress management, and specifically breathwork versus meditation, and which of those was the best for stress relief. So today, I'm going to break down the findings of that study tell you the best science backed most current way to de-stress fast, let's go.
Welcome back to the no nonsense wellness podcast, the place for women who are trying to do all the things and stay healthy, sane and actually enjoy life in the process. Hey, I'm Tara, a trained therapist, a life coach, a nutrition coach and a fitness instructor. And I'm on a mission to help you take back control of your mind, health and life. Each week, I'll be cutting through the nonsense and getting real with you. I'll bring you the insight and information you need to take control of your weight and health, find food freedom.
And finally break free from the thoughts that are sabotaging you and holding you back.
You, my friend are powerful,
and the world needs you to start showing up in a bigger wave. It's time to get unstuck and start moving forward. So let's pop in those earbuds, tie up those shoes. Let's walk and talk.
Before we get started, I just want to thank you for being here. Thank you so much for being a listener of this podcast. If you haven't yet, please head to iTunes, and subscribe to the show and give it a written review. That really helps other people find the podcast so we can just keep sharing the no nonsense love. And if you don't listen through iTunes, share it on your stories on Instagram, share it on your Facebook page, share an email that you got for me, I really, really appreciate you guys sharing the love. That's how we all get to make more friends and make a bigger impact. So thank you so much for doing that.
Okay, so in 2023, one of the things that I have committed to for myself to work on this year is stress management. Because like you, I'm not always really good at that. Like everything else, I feel like the better that I can get at something, the more I can master it, the better I can teach you and coach you through it. Right. So this is something that I personally am working on. And the two ways that I'm starting with working on stress management are number one, creating better systems for myself. And number two, using meditation to calm my mind, I am all about better systems, I think better systems lead to better outcomes. So the more that I can do my desired actions and have my desired thoughts on autopilot, the faster I get to move forward, and the less stress I create in my life. So the more things I can systematize, the better. So that's the thing that I'm working on first. And that's a whole other topic. We talked about that and healthy mind healthy body to about how to create systems for yourself. But I think I should do a few episodes on that. The other thing that I decided I was going to work on was meditation. So meditation is one of those things that I've like tried here and there. But I always find it really annoying, and I only lasts about 10 seconds before I'm like over it just is not something that I have felt like ever I've been able to stick with or that has ever really worked largely, obviously because I wasn't able to stick with it. In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, I should probably do a whole challenge on stress reduction and managing our stress. Yeah, I should do that we could make it like the chill out challenge. Is that a good name? I'll work on that. Okay, keep me posted. If you think a chill out challenge or a stress reduction challenge would be good for you. If you would love to learn some tips and tricks and tools and strategies for reducing stress, like the things that I'm putting in place for my own life. Let me know that somebody a message, send me a DM, send me an email. Get a hold of me and let me know if that's something you'd be interested in. I'll put that together.
Back to what we were talking about. Meditation. I'm not a good meditator. We've always, you know, everyone always says like, it's so good for stress reduction and the science backs that up. It is good for stress reduction. And I'm not talking about meditation as a spiritual practice. I'm talking about meditation as a way to quiet the constantly running dialogue in your brain, and to physiologically calm your body down. So when you are in a stress response using meditation, to physiologically calm yourself down, as well as manage all of the constantly running thoughts in your brain. So I, there are people who use meditation as a spiritual practice, I am not that person, I intend to use meditation simply as a tool in my toolbox, if that makes sense. So again, I've tried meditation before I find it very hard to do, I usually give up. And so I was really excited when I heard about this recent study just released in January from Stanford, that breath work is actually way more effective than meditation in that physiological calming, so calming of the mind and calming of the body. So we're gonna dive into the study, I'm going to give you some easy and effective ways to start managing stress with breath work.
First, let's talk about stress really fast, because like I said, in the intro stress is affecting every part of you, your cardiovascular health, your digestive health, your brain health, your metabolism, your hormone balance, there is not a system in your body that chronic stress is not touching, and not affecting in some negative way, if we're talking about chronic stress. So this is something that you need to be very aware of, there is a entire module about it in the Healthy Mind Healthy Body program, we really dive deep and stress. Because it's such a huge part of our inability to reach our health goals and reach our weight loss goals. It's a big, big deal. So anything that we can learn that's going to help reduce our chronic stress is going to be very beneficial to us, across the board. So it used to always be conventional wisdom. Meditation was the number one way to do that, right? Meditation was the number one way to reduce stress. Well, this new study from Stanford is actually showing that breath work is more effective.
Let's talk about breath. What do I mean when I say breath work? Think of all the different types of breathing that you do. You just have your regular like day to day breathing, you breathe differently when you're excited, sighing is a different sort of breath. Yawning is a different sort of breath, gasping, sleeping, laughing, crying, right? All of those are different sorts of breathing. And what you'll notice then, if you think about those types of breathing is that your breath is connected to your mental state. And so what the scientists in this study were wondering is, if my mental state, my emotional state, is controlling my breathing pattern. So for example, I'm excited and so I start breathing faster, or I'm crying. And so I have a crying breathing pattern, right? My emotional state is causing a breathing pattern. What they wondered then was, can a breathing pattern cause an emotional state? More specifically, can I have a certain breathing pattern that will cause a calm, emotional state? And the answer was yes. So if you've ever done yoga, or Pilates, or any sort of similar modality to that, you know that connecting breath to movement is a huge part of that practice. And this is why being able to connect breath to movement in those practices is extremely important. But also because it's affecting your state of mind. Now, again, I am not talking about spiritual things, here. I am talking about pure science, pure physiology, pure mind body connection, it is a real thing. Being able to connect mind and body through breath. I mean, think about it, when someone's all worked up and agitated. What's the first thing you tell them to do to calm down? Take a deep breath, right? What's the first thing you do when you are upset, you gotta go take a deep breath and calm yourself down. This idea of breathwork has been around for centuries. But now we have this really cool study from Stanford that really backs it up, and gives us a very clear framework of how to do it.
Let's talk about the study, again, was just published in January of 2023, in the journal Cell, so I will link that study in the shownotes. If you're a little nerdy like me, and you want to check it out. So what they did was for one month, they tracked participants and each participant was performing one of three different five minute breathwork strategies or a mindfulness meditation strategies. So they had four different groups breathwork, one breathwork, two breath, work three, and then a meditation, all of it for five minutes a day. And what they were looking for was improvements overall in heart rate variability, improved sleep, reduced stress, and improved mood. So those were the markers that they were looking for. So the three types of breath work that they compared sound like this. So the first one was box breathing. So box breathing is think of a square in your head, and you're gonna have the same count on each side of the square. So one side of the square is an inhale, then the top of the square is a hold. And then the side of the square is an exhale, and then the bottom of the square is a hold. So it's inhale,
hold, same amount of time, exhale, same amount of time,
hold on a time. Inhale again. Okay, so that pattern for five minutes, that's box breathing. The second one that they tested was cyclic, psychological sighing. Okay, that's a new term for me. But here's what it sounds like. It sounds like two inhales followed by a full exhale via the mouth. Okay, so two inhales through the nose. First one is long, the second one is short. And then a long exhale through the mouth. So inhale, at the end, you really fill up and then the long exhale, out the mouth, okay, in through the nose out through the mouth, that's a cyclic breathing, cyclic sighing is what they call it. And then they the third one that they tested, is cyclic hyperventilation. So this is a deep nasal inhale, and a mouth, exhale for 25 cycles, followed by 15 to 32nd, holes with your lungs empty, okay, so it's a deep all the way, filling your lungs, inhale through your nose, and then a deep all the way, exhale out your mouth. And you do that 25 times, and then you hold with your lungs empty for 15 to 30 seconds. So I tried all of these on my own, I found this one very difficult to do, it felt like I was suffocating, I did not like it at all, I would find doing that for five minutes to be very difficult. And then the fourth group that they were studying, they were doing a mindful meditation exercise. So they were just following a meditation prompt, you know, just kind of sitting there quietly observing their breath, observing their thoughts, you know, meditation, right?
So meditation has been studied tons of times, right. And it always proved to be really useful in physically calming your body, and bringing on feelings of well being and reducing stress. But a primary component of meditation is actually focusing on the breath. So while you're meditating, you are observing your breath, you're thinking about your breath. And so scientists wondered, then, if they would get a better result or as good of a result, if they just took out the meditation part and just had you focus on controlling the breath? Would if we just went straight to the breath work and didn't mess with the observe your whole thoughts thing? Could we still calm you down? And would it be a lot more effective, because what they knew is that most people don't stick to meditation very well as a practice, because most people find it really daunting, really hard, really difficult to stick to me, I'm that person. Five minutes of meditation felt like torture to me, I couldn't do it. But five minutes of breath work, they thought people, if you give them something to focus on, like controlling breath, they would better stick to it. And then because they stuck to it, they'd have better long term results. They also thought that active control over breath would be easier for people to grasp and produce better physiological changes over time, rather than the sort of passive observing of breath and meditations. That makes sense. So the idea is, instead of just observing my breath, and being calm and meditation, I am actively focusing on breath and controlling it, it's a very different mechanism. And what they found is that they were right breathwork actually did improve all the physiological markers that they were looking for. And it wasn't just while they were doing the breathing exercises, but it was throughout the day and throughout the study, and it improved, as the days went on in the study. And so what they found was that doing five minutes of breath work a day, just five minutes, participants were getting better sleep, they had better heart rate, variability, they had better mood, all of those physiological and emotional signs that they were looking for improved.
Now, what was the best performing breathwork it was the cyclic sighing is what it was called. So remember, the cyclic sighing was a nice long breath in through your nose, and then a short filler up at the end, right? So
and then a long exhale,
all the way empty, and then do it again. So repeating that for five straight minutes. That was the most effective way to do breath work. So they have some pictures in their study that I actually found really helpful in sort of visualizing and understanding that so I will put those pictures. I'll see if I can share those pictures in the show notes. If I can't, the link to the study will be in the show notes. And you can scroll through this study and find the pictures for the cyclic signing. So here's my takeaway from all of this. I instead of meditation, because I find it hard and I don't when I find when I have a story in my head that something's hard, then I don't start it. So instead of meditation, I'm going to start working on five minutes a day of breath work. And then I'm going to work into the meditation, because I'm sort of seeing now that they have two different purposes for me. So breath work is really for that physiological response to physiologically calm my body to calm my nervous system to reduce my stress reaction. Now, if I do that, not only am I calming my nervous system, but then I am also calming the effects of chronic stress on all my other body systems. And then meditation to me, I think is something that I would use to more clearly understand my mind, right meditation, for me is being able to pay attention as an observer to the thoughts that are running through my mind, and being able to quiet those thoughts down a little bit. And that's something that we need to talk a whole lot more about. But I think maybe we should do a challenge, some kind of stress reduction challenge. I think that'd be fun. And we all certainly need it. So let me know if that sounds good.
So what I'm going to work on right now is five minutes of breathwork a day and then I'm going to work into the meditation piece. So if you try this, I really want to know if it made a difference for you. I would love to get some feedback. So so send me an email or send me a DM I want to know if you try it and if you got some good results if you were able to reduce stress or sleep better, or calm your body. I really want to know if this worked for you. And also let me know if you want to do a challenge. I'll put it together if there's interest from you guys. I will put that together for us. Okay, my friends,
I hope this is super helpful. Give five minutes of cyclic sighing a try. Until we talk again, my friends be well.
Friends, thanks so much for being here. If you found value in today's episode, will you do me a favor and head over to iTunes? Find the no nonsense wellness podcast and subscribe and leave me a review. It would mean the world to me and help other people find the show. And I'd love to connect with you more. So find me on Instagram. I'm @tarafaulmann. Take a screenshot of this episode and share it in your stories and tag me. I'll see you over there.