- breathe in deeply (without forcing it), then
- breathe out slowly and smoothly.
How can this be so effective? Well, it’s having a direct effect on two parts of the brain – the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex.
The amygdala run’s the body’s emergency response system. That includes emergency patterns of breathing – short, fast, and high in the chest. So when you’re stressed, that’s often how you’re breathing.
When you breath slowly and deeply instead, it tells the amygdala that the danger has passed. It can then start to turn off all the other stress responses too.
The pre-frontal cortex is where conscious processing happens in the brain. It has two modes: “narrative” and “direct perception.”
It’s normally in “narrative mode” – concerned with past, present and future, and the unfolding story of our lives. That can be a happy story – but it can also be a stressful one.
When you deliberately take 3 deep breaths, you take your attention to your breathing. That shifts your pre-frontal cortex to “direct perception” mode, and out of “narrative mode.” Any stressful narratives are interrupted, once again signalling to the amygdala that the danger has passed.