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You Do This Every 5 Minutes and Don’t Even Know It!

Published on 09/13/2021

Did you know that we sigh every 5 minutes? Why is that? I recently came across interesting research explaining the purpose of habitual sighing, or taking a deep breath.

Silvia Pagliardini, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology at the University of Alberta, explains: “Sighs keep the tiny air sacs in the lungs, the alveoli, from collapsing, and maintain the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide. If you don’t sigh and re-open the alveoli, you could become hypoxic and die.” Luckily, this is not something we have to worry about. Our brains are programmed to do this reflexively.

But it turns out that sighing may have another purpose. Elke Vlemincx—an assistant professor at the Department of Health Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam—hypothesizes that sighs also function as reset buttons for our emotions. They restore calm and provide relief.

And while on average we sigh every 5 minutes, we actually sigh more often when under stress, usually unconsciously. And if we sigh too often, in an effort to regulate our anxiety, this can work against us, inducing hyperventilation. And instructed sighs (as often instructed in yoga and meditation) are not as soothing and relieving as our natural spontaneous sighs.

Vlemincx’s advice? “As long as you’re healthy, don’t force your sighing. If there’s nothing wrong, don’t fix it. There’s a reason why you’re sighing the way you’re sighing.”

YOUR TURN: Nothing to DO but marvel at our body’s amazing ability to self-regulate!

HeleneTStelian Musing

I’m Hélène, the Midlife Empowerment Coach. I help women who are struggling in midlife—who wonder if their best years are behind them and what’s next for them. I show them how to put themselves first, reclaim their identity, figure out what’s next, and feel excited about their future.

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