Some Sighs Contain More Meaning Than Any Kiss

Beyond giving us relief when we're worn out, sighs have a biological function. They supply us with sufficient oxygen when our lungs need it.
Some Sighs Contain More Meaning Than Any Kiss
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

It’s said that sighs are the answers to what’s left in the air, including many that hold more love than any kiss.

What’s the truth hidden behind these bucolic phrases? It’s strange how the world of emotions, including literature and popular psychology, have created an image of sighs that’s very romantic.

Popular opinion is that sighing is more than a cathartic act when we release that threatening stress. There’s hidden sorrow from a memory that’s still painful.

If people sigh due to a very specific reason, it’s so they can survive. In this article we’d like to explain the function of distinct sighs in our daily life. We’re certain you’ll find it very interesting.

Sighs form part of the cycle of life

We sometime release sighs without being aware of it. It’s possible that you don’t notice even sighing once, but within an hour we sigh up to 12 times. It’s incredible, given that during those 12 times, your brain has saved your life without you knowing it.

We’ll explain in more detail.

The sigh buttons of our brain

According to a study published in Nature Magazine, our brain is what decides the type of breathing we need each moment.  

Inside this “wonderful computer” they determined that there were two groups of neurons.

Those conducting the study decided at the time to call this curious group of neurons  “sigh buttons”.

The sighs buttons in our body

This evocative name vouches for what is actually a perfect mechanism. We can describe it in the following way:

  • When this happens the capacity for our lungs to exchange oxygen for carbon dioxide cannot be carried out effectively.
  • These two groups of nerve cells called “nerve buttons” immediately perceive this problem and “come to the rescue”.  These buttons are two small structures located in the brain stem.
  • One after the other, these nerve buttons give us the order to sigh. In this way, we’re able to open the air sacs, which allows double the amount of oxygen from a normal breath to enter the lungs.
  • This mechanical operation is something that we do unconsciously, without being aware of it.  Nevertheless, as we’ve indicated before, we do this 12 times every hour. This is how we continue to restart the cycle of life.

Emotional sighs

We now know that we sigh in order to stay alive.  This essential biological act for our survival defines and explains involuntary sighs.

Also read:

Control Your Emotions or They Will Control You

There are also sighs which are known as emotional sighs or voluntary sighs. We can describe them in the following way:

A woman with a heart tied around her waist
  • A sigh is an emotional catharsis when confronting a stressful or frustrating situation.
  • Many people let out a huge sigh when things aren’t going their way. For example, when we attempt something difficult, whether physical or mental, and it doesn’t turn out as we were hoping, we may sigh.
  • In the same way, sighs are “those chimneys” where sorrow and distress are released; that breath that’s left over for the person who we miss.

This information is as strange as it is interesting. Karl Teigen is a famous scientist from the University of Psychology in Oslo, Norway and an expert in emotional sighs.

According to his work, a sigh helps us to empathize with another human being. When we hear a sigh from a family member or friend, we interpret this gesture as an emotional negative, as if we should lend emotional support.

This is so true, and according to Dr. Teigen, the emotional sigh also answers an instinct to join up with our social group.

Take a deep breath, relax

As we now know, the brain itself is in charge of allowing us to survive.

However, from this we can deduce that humans can have different types of breathing depending on the moment and the necessity.

Concentrate on “mindfulness” or practice yoga, which also teaches us various ways of  voluntary and controlled breathing to give more concrete results:

  • To help us be more present
  • For combating stress and being healthy
  • To meditate and be conscious of ourselves and our necessities
A person meditating

We recommend that you learn to sigh. In each breath you release tensions and worries and this renews that ” internal life cycle”.

Take note of what you should do each day for 20 minutes:

  • Look for a peaceful place where you can rest mentally.
  • Sit with your back straight.
  • Bring the chest forward and rest your hands on your lap.
  • Breathe deeply through your nose for 4 seconds and then hold your breath for 4 more seconds.  After this, let out a long and loud sigh that lasts for 7 seconds.  

Once you start to do this simple exercise daily you’ll see a difference in your body and your mind.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.