We know it’s easy to write off deep breathing as some kind of how-to-book hocus-pocus. But there’s real science here. Taking a deep breath through your nose triggers the release of nitric oxide, which has a calming effect and opens up your blood vessels. (Think about why this helps. When your blood pressure rises in stressful situations, it’s because those arteries constrict, making it harder for blood to pass through. So when those arteries open up, your blood pressure lowers, and you feel much calmer.) Thinking about how you really feel and understanding your feelings lead to that awareness of triggers and anticipation, which leads to learning how you can neutralize the response, which then can lead to practice. That’s when the neutralizing response becomes so automatic that it’s like the chopsticks you played after a year of piano practice — tough the first time, so automatic the 80th that your neighbors could hum it. The second way deep breathing helps is by giving you some mental clarity, which can help you make specific decisions to solve your stresses. Whether you choose to do deep breathing by yourself in a meditative way or perhaps in a yoga class or in the few minutes after the knucklehead cuts you off in traffic, the fact is that deep breathing serves as a method by which you clear your mind of clutter and piece together smart, rational approaches to your issues.
Source: Excerpted from Age-Proof: Living Longer Without Running Out of Money or Breaking a Hip by Michael F. Roizen, MD, and Jean Chatzky.