Breath and Your Brain
Shared by Dr. Bryan Stephens
I talk to patients on a daily basis on how stress affects our health and tension. As stress goes up, hormones such as cortisol are elevated and put us into a fight or flight state. While this is great for escaping dangerous situations like not getting eaten from predators, we aren’t supposed to spend our entire day like this. Stress reactions increase our tension and inflammation, they lower our immune system, they increase our blood pressure and heart rate, and dilate our eyes. This makes sense when you think about it. If you’re about to be eaten, you don’t care about fighting off the virus in your body. You care about making sure your muscles have enough blood to run or fight. These days, we don’t really have many lions, tigers, or bears (oh my) that we are in danger of encountering. Our stresses are more perceived stressors and keep us in the sympathetic (fight or flight) for longer periods of time.
So, how do we decrease the stressors and move back towards homeostasis?
I’m so glad you asked!
One of the easy go-to tips I give my patients is to do meditative breathing. I know I’ve discussed breathing in the past, but I want to emphasize it again. I was listening to the School of Greatness podcast with Lewis Howes while he was interviewing brain surgeon and neuroscientist Dr. Rahul Jandial. He went into detail on a study he was part of where they attached electrodes on the naked brain of patients experiencing seizures. While they were observing the patients to see where the seizures were taking place, the patients underwent pace breathing and meditative breathing. They noted the same electrical changes that occur when people are given valium. Anxiety went down and electricity went from fast to medium. He explained earlier in the conversation that focus and production happens best at medium state. This is what athletes call being in the zone. “Meditative breathing led to direct changes in the electricity of the brain as measured, not with a sticker on the forehead, but with a grid on the surface of the naked brain. It is true measurable changes in the electricity and therefore the mind.”
This further showed the benefit breathing can have on anxiety and stress. Next time you feel that tension piling up and your stress continuing to grow, take a few moments and remember to breathe. Deep breath in, deep breath out. It will help calm your mind and shift you back towards homeostasis.
Howes, Lewis. School of Greatness. Brain Surgeon reveals how to heal your body & mind with Dr. Rahul Jandial Episode 1249. 4/7/2022. Minute 60.