Starting with a Sigh?

Starting with a sigh? That doesn’t sound very auspicious now, does it?

Not very punchy. Not very success-oriented. Kinda wimpy.

Except… The latest neuroscience disagrees!

You see, when we start something, we want to start with clarity — calm — purpose.

And studies show that nothing takes us there faster –or more effectively– than a sigh.

Not a melodramatic whimper or whine, mind you.

A physiological sigh.

To move from overwhelm, stress, poor attention span or short-term memory to clarity, calm, purpose, decisiveness, creativity…

Inhale slowly through your nose, then take an immediate rapid second sniff, followed by a long mouth exhale – a physiological sigh.

That second sniff should be like you’re trying to prevent a wet nose from dripping onto your upper lip on a cold winter day… a quick but purposeful sniff through the nose, then looong exhale through the mouth. Then repeat the whole process once or twice again.

A longer inhalation through the nose, a second shorter nose sniff, then long mouth exhalation… Then breath normally and notice the difference in your state.

Neuroscientists, mental health professionals, and success coaches variously call this process “the physiological sigh,” “cyclical sighing,” or “the intentional sigh.”

As a rapid intervention to counteract stress, freeze-up, fight or flight, or fawning, it works faster and more efficiently than meditation or deep breathing – both of which are still phenomenal for stress management as a prophylactic…

Here’s a quick demonstration of how to do the physiological sigh by Andrew Huberman PhD, on Youtube shorts, in case words alone didn’t do it for you.

And here’s the two-minute video where Andrew lays out the neuroscience.

In a TV sitcom, the character making the loud, verbal, melodramatic sigh may show defeat or resignation, but in real life, the genuine (subvocal) physiological sigh will help you seize victory from the jaws of overwhelm, moving from a deer-in-the-headlights state back into relaxed, powerfully decisive clarity.

This kind of sighing gives you back your self-control.

It also lets you get your head out of the feed (trough), and back to curating, creating, and implementing, where art is produced, friendships formed, and money, vacations, and vocations are made.

And that all starts…

with the right kind of sigh

repeated once, twice, or even thrice… oh my!

Tao Semko from

A quick article by Carrie Caudill, PhD goes further into the therapeutic and self-help applications of the physiological sigh, if you want more of the nitty-gritty.

P.P.S. For ways of releasing specific types of embodied stress, try my mini-course.

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  • August 11, 2023