Brain Hack 3: How To Calm Down and Reduce Stress

calm down reduce stress

Our previous post shared a brain hack that improves your mood instantly. Brain hack 3 will also improve your mood by helping you calm down and reduce stress.

This hack can be used anytime you notice that you are feeling anxious, nervous, or overly stressed.

How Stress Affects the Brain and Body

Stress affects all systems of the body, especially the nervous system. The first part of our brain to form is the limbic system, responsible for our fight-or-flight response to danger. The nervous system responds to stress and danger by forcing shorter, more rapid breaths that will provide us with plenty of oxygen. The endorphin cortisol is released to heighten our awareness and ability to respond quickly. Our muscles tense and get ready for action.

Scientists have discovered another brain hack that can help us calm down and reduce stress. In a paper published in Science, researchers found that a group of nerves in the brain of mice that regulate breathing has a direct connection to the arousal center of the brain. In other words, breathing can have a direct effect on the overall activity level of the brain. Slow, regular breathing can change the mind.

Brain Hack #3 – Calm Down and Reduce Stress

Brain hacks allow us to reverse the neural loop. Since rapid breathing causes the brain and body to go on high alert and tense up, the opposite will help us relax and feel more chill!

Note that this breathwork is different from meditation (where we often just observe the breath). We are recommending you spend 1-3 minutes, or more, actively slowing your breathing. Here are the steps:

  • Begin by sitting in a comfortable position and closing your eyes.
  • Relax your muscles, especially your neck, jaw, and shoulders.
  • Begin taking slow breaths through your nose with your mouth closed. Count how long it takes you to inhale. You want to get to a five-count.
  • Exhale very slowly through your nose or mouth for another count of five.
  • Pause for a count of five.
  • Repeat the process at least three more times.

According to practitioners, those slow, deep breaths set off a cascade of physiological responses that accelerate your descent into a more complete state of relaxation, compared to more passive mindfulness exercises.

Making Brain Hacks into Habits

The Personal Kaizen team wants you to become a better, more effective person by using all of our simple brain hacks. To do this, you will need to conduct regular check-ins with your mood and feelings. Then when you are feeling stressed (and taking short rapid breaths) you can take several minutes to use our breathing exercise.

Use the same check-ins to see when our other brain hacks can be used:

Please share your successes with the rest of the Personal Kaizen community in the comments below!

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