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Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear - Northwestern University

Updated: May 21, 2020

This one is pretty cool.

SO, we're always being told to breathe deeply and connect through our breath when anxiety runs amok, yeah? I mean, I know it works. I preach that this stupid, woo-woo exercise is a huge anxiety management tool in my life. Hell, I even swore up and down that the "pause on the out breath" was where the magic happened in catching and sequestering my anxiety.

I still understand if "breathing" wasn't the big, exciting answer to anxiety that you were hoping for.

..... But, hey, here's proof.


“One of the major findings in this study is that there is a dramatic difference in brain activity in the amygdala and hippocampus during inhalation compared with exhalation,” said lead author Christina Zelano, assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “When you breathe in, we discovered you are stimulating neurons in the olfactory cortex, amygdala and hippocampus, all across the limbic system.”

So, what they're saying is, there's less energy being shuttled to the areas of the brain responsible for your primitive thinking and stress responses during an exhalation. Hmmm.

We previously talked about how those areas are lighting up irrationally every day due to trauma physiology, thus causing you to be on danger overdrive whether or not it's appropriate. This is the "trauma response" center.

Long story short, if we quiet those panicking fight-or-flight areas of the brain using a deep exhalation, we get a moment of brain and body peace. Science says so.

Thanks, science.

Next time you're looking to connect with your inner landscape or feeling a "jolt" of anxiety (really, it wouldn't hurt every moment of every day), remember to breathe with intent.

Hint: it comes from your gut.

Notice the feeling of your stomach

Focus on the sensation of your outer stomach muscles extending and contracting

Fill your stomach with air, stretch it shamelessly outward


Start exhaling

Engage, and use the muscles to push all the air out of your body

Pause with empty lungs and empty stomach

Hold it and relax

Feel your body calm THE FUCK down

Remember, science says so.

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