Did you know that the average person sighs about 12 times an hour, or about every 5 minutes? You likely don’t even notice that you’re doing it, unless someone points it out, perhaps asking if you’re okay. So, why do we sigh?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), frequent sighing is a sign of what we call “Liver Qi stagnation.” We sigh because we are trying to release bound up energy in the chest that might be caused by frustration, irritation, depression, resentment, anxiety, or other emotional tension.
Why do we sigh?
If you hear someone sigh, what do you think is going on for them?
It’s interesting that in a study done on the perception of sighing, experimenters found that participants given different scenarios of people sighing guessed that it was out of sadness. But, the participants themselves felt they sighed mostly out of frustration. 1
It seems there is a mental/emotional purpose for sighing. It can be a bit of a reset. 2 People given puzzles to solve sighed when they took a short break from a challenging problem, though they often hadn’t even noticed the sigh.
Sighing is also essential to proper lung function. It’s amazing that for every type of breath you take—regular breathing, deep conscious breath, sigh, yawn, cough, etc.—a different neuron is activated in your brain’s breathing centre.
In our lungs are tiny balloon-like sacs where oxygen enters and carbon dioxides leaves. These are called alveoli. These delicate little balloons sometimes collapse, rendering it hard for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide gases. When we sigh, we take in twice the amount of air as a normal breath, thus opening these collapsed alveoli. If we don’t sigh, our lungs will eventually fail. 3
So sigh away, it’s vital to your health!
However, if you notice the need to sigh more often and notice yourself feeling moodier (or maybe people are avoiding you!) and/or you are experiencing digestive issues or hormonal imbalance, then come in for acupuncture or herbs. While the sighing can help temporarily release some stress, unless it’s taken care of, it will continue to disrupt other aspects of your health.