Did you know that there’s an ultra-quick method you can use to almost instantly de-stress? Two short, sharp breaths in through the nose, followed by a long, slow breath out through the mouth. Learn how to do it in seconds! You can even integrate it into hypnosis sessions.
So what is this quick way to de-stress?
And what makes it go?
The Physiological Sigh Step-by-Step
To almost instantly reduce stress, just follow these simple steps.
- Breathe out completely.
- Take a short, sharp breath in through your nose.
- Pause without breathing out for an instant.
- Take another short, sharp breath in through your nose.
- Hold briefly.
- Breathe out slowly through your mouth.
And that’s literally the entire process. You can make it easier to remember by compressing steps 2-4 down to something like take 2 short, sharp breaths in.
To de-stress more, simply repeat the process.
The really cool thing about this process is that it is driven by our physiology, so it’s pretty much impossible to mess up so long as you follow the steps.
You’ve probably noticed that there are no timings. That’s intentional.
If you’re just starting out with breath work, try to make the inhales about 1 second each, with a half second pause between them. Then hold for about 2 seconds after inhaling, before exhaling for about 5 seconds.
As you gain experience, you’ll find that you can increase the pauses and the exhale, and shorten the inhales.
The key is to play about with it and discover what works for you.
Then adjust over time.
Remember, the only thing that matters is what works for you, so any timings I give here are essentially meaningless and are given only so you have an idea of a starting point.
How Does The Physiological Sigh Work?
As you might imagine, there’s a whole lot of stuff going on that makes the physiological sigh work. At the core though, it’s remarkably simple: In order to inhale, we have to increase tension throughout the relevant parts of our body. And when we exhale, we relax that tension.
So the physiological sigh is effectively a form of physiological fractionation.
When we breathe in, the only way we can do so is by tensing up a bunch of muscles to draw the air in.
And when we breathe out, we relax as the air flows out of our system, laden with slightly more carbon dioxide than when we inhale.
At the simplest level, by making our out-breaths longer than our in-breaths, we drive our system towards relaxation simply because we’re investing more time in a relaxed state.
Naturally there’s a whole lot more going on beneath the surface, and I’ve found that all we really need to know for our purposes as hypnotists is that we’re effectively training the system to relax more by essentially forcing that relaxation to happen, and building the associated habits.
The double intake before breathing out has the effect of training our lungs to inflate quickly and more effectively, a bit like using a jackhammer to break up concrete.
It gets us into relaxation much more quickly than a single short intake followed by a long exhale, because it provides a little shock to the system.
Why Use The Physiological Sigh?
The physiological sigh can be incredibly helpful, because it doesn’t rely on all the stuff we might need to guide someone into a meditative trance. Since it is a physical process, we don’t have to worry about doing anything with the mind, and we can easily spot whether they are doing it or not.
All we have to do is give them a simple instruction that just about anyone can follow.
And then repeat maybe 3 times.
This is handy because our subject does not need to be able to assert control over their mind like they would with meditation, gratitude, and so on. And you only need to do it 1-3 times to cause a huge decrease in stress!
So if someone is in an agitated state, or they’re having trouble focusing, or anything else that might mess up your session, this simple process can lead them directly into physical relaxation.
And often, relaxation makes a lot of stuff in hypnosis easier.
Using The Physiological Sigh With Hypnosis
In a hypnosis session, the physiological sigh may be used as part of building an agreement frame at the start of the induction. It also makes a handy compliance test, since you can easily see whether your subject is following along.
As with all things in hypnosis, there are virtually unlimited ways that we can proceed. So here I’m going to give just one easy way to integrate the physiological sigh into a hypnosis session.
Here’s what a session might look like.
1. Do The Usual Session-Start Stuff
2. Give Them A Quick Explanation Of Relaxation
Give a lightning explanation of relaxation. Something like There’s this interesting effect with breathing. When we breathe in, we can only do so by tensing some muscles. Model this for them by demonstrating breathing in immediately after the words breathe in. Then invite them to breathe in and notice the tension increasing to build agreement through compliance and their direct observation of their own muscle tension.
And when we breathe out, we relax. Again, model it for them by doing it. Then invite them to follow along. Now you’re increasing focus and continuing to build agreement through compliance and observation.
Finish up with something like So it follows that we can relax by doing nothing more than making our in-breaths be shorter than our out-breaths. Again, demonstrate this for them by taking a quick breath in, holding for a second or so, and then breathing out slowly, visibly relaxing as you do so. Once again, invite them to follow along.
Build a little more agreement by mentioning that the really nice thing about breathing is that it’s easy for us to consciously assert control over it.
3. Segue Into Talking About The Physiological Sigh
Now that you’ve set the frames, next up you want to walk them through the physiological sigh. I like to use metaphors along the lines of talking about how a jackhammer is more effective at breaking up concrete because of the repeated shocks. Then just say something like Now a lot of systems work in the same way. If you deliver a rapid, repeated shock, you can massively increase your results.
You can use any explanation that fits in with your own view and hopefully theirs.
Then mention that it turns out breathing works in much the same way. You can take two short, sharp intakes of breath, and it magnifies the effects of ramping up the tension. Which means that when you relax, you can come down a lot further a lot more quickly.
As with the explanation of relaxation through breathing, demonstrate as you explain, and invite them to do it themselves. This builds even more agreement, and it gives you an opportunity to notice whether they are doing it right, and steer them a little if they’re not.
4. Start The Induction With The Physiological Sigh
Next up, ask them if they’re ready to begin, do some final ecology checks to make sure they’re comfortable, and so on, and then ask them to perform the physiological sigh three times. As you do this, do all the usual reinforcement things like leading them by doing it yourself, nodding, smiling, indicating whether they should be breathing in or out by lifting your hand up or down, and walking them through each cycle step-by-step.
5. Invite Them To Focus On Their Breathing
Since they are already focused somewhat on their breathing, narrow their focus by inviting them to focus on just one part of it. Suggest a few ideas… the feel of the air flowing through their nostrils, the way their shoulders rise and fall, the sensation of the air moving past the back of their throat.
There are a heap of these, so I usually just pick some at random each time around.
6. Suggest That They Close Their Eyes
At some point, you might find that it’s easier to focus on that breathing when you allow those eyes to close.
Notice that we’re subtly moving their breathing and their eyes further away from them by using the words that breathing and those eyes.
7. Lock Their Eyes Shut
Point out that they can open those eyes at any time if they want to. But it’s just so much easier to keep them closed. They can even tension up the muscles in those eyes so much that it’s impossible to open them. And it’s so much easier to relax those eye muscles completely now.
All the way down.
Can’t open them.
Don’t want to.
Switch them between tension and relaxation of their eye muscles until you get a sense that they’re ready.
8. Switch To Your Main Hypnotic Induction
I usually use some kind of journey process at this point, like the one I give in The Hypnotic Mind.
Pretty much any induction will do. And some subjects will already be very deep by this point.
9. Do Stuff In Hypnosis
Since you’ve got them into hypnosis, invite them to do something with it.
If you’ve guided them through a journey, you can encourage them to seek out their spirit animal, change things about so that they seem right, look for specific things (for example, a lighthouse, a tree, a cat, or anything else that takes your fancy), install hypnotic triggers, or even make direct suggestions.
Anything you’d normally do that is appropriate and fits the context is fine here.
10. Bring Them Out Of Hypnosis
Once your subject has been in hypnosis long enough, bring them out by whatever means is appropriate for the induction you’ve used.
With a journey, normally I guide them back out in the reverse order, mentioning that they will bring any positive changes with them into the waking world.
Two short, sharp intakes of breath through the nose, a brief pause, and then a long, slow breath out through the mouth. That’s all that’s required for a physiological sigh.
Really it couldn’t be much simpler.
But it’s possible to go way, way deeper.
Once you’ve got someone relaxed, whether by using the physiological sigh, or by any other means, their alerting system turns down a bit. And that makes it easier to guide them into whatever state they’d like to experience.
As is the case with many things in hypnosis, there are lots of ways to proceed from here.
One thing is certain though: If you want to guide someone deep into hypnosis, it’s generally necessary to quiet down their mind. And the truth is that the key to success is layering in enough stuff that your subject runs out of resources and has no choice but to go deep.
Luckily, we humans can only keep track of about 7 things at once, so layering in enough stuff isn’t necessarily a huge task. You just have to know how to do it.
If that sounds like something that might be helpful, you might like to check out my book Deep Trance Secrets.
In it, I go into exactly what you need to do to guide someone into deep trance, along with 7 different things that I do to get them there fast. I even go into how to do it to yourself.