Grief Sighing or Breathing Relief?

Do you sigh throughout the day? Perhaps you don’t recognize that you’re sighing. It’s a deep breath in as your entire upper body rises, and then you release with an long audible exhale and your body sinks as does your hopes.

breathingI was with my youngest daughter and we noticed we both were sighing! She is in that transition from college stage and I was in a bit of overwhelm packing to move to a new apartment. The experience brought me back to the time I felt I had little control over my circumstances, early widowhood, a time of a great many sighs. When I faced the circumstances of yet another day of not feeling better and of the emptiness, indecision and uncertainty.

Then my mind went to dissecting what exactly is a sigh. Is it helpful or hurtful? It is yet another physical response to a thought. Turns out that sighs are associated with a negative mood—a sign of disappointment, defeat, frustration, boredom, and longing. Not too surprising in a study done by Vlemincx and colleagues at University of Leuven it was suggested that, indeed, sighing acts as a physical—and mental—reset. When breathing in one state for too long, Vlemincx says, the lungs become stiffer and less efficient in gas exchange. Intermittently adding a sigh to the normal pattern, then, stretches the lung’s air sacs (alveoli). This feeling may give one a sense of relief. However, sighing definitely is a pattern of breathing related to the emotions, often it is a coping mechanism to deal with an unpleasant thought.

What if we took back our breath control? Sighing may be the default when we are unaware but, taking control and consciously resetting our mind and body through conscious breathing may ward off those negative emotions!

Try this with me. Take a deep inhale through your nose allowing your shoulders to rise as in preparing to sigh. Then exhale through your mouth with an audible “ohhhhhhh” as your upper body sinks. Notice how you feel. Now, take another deep breath in all the way up to your collarbones but not lifting your shoulders up to your ears but breathing up to your collarbones. Now, exhale all the way through your nose. Can you sense the difference? Can you feel relaxation with the second breath? Were you able to sense the negative when practicing a sigh?

With just a tiny shift we can change the negative to a positive.

Be well,


© 2012 Audrey Pellicano. All Rights Reserved. Copying or reposting this content without written permission is strictly prohibited.
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