Do you have a hard time paying attention or keeping your focus on the task at hand? There are certain breathing exercises that may be able to help with concentration. As important as physical activity such as aerobic exercise can be to your overall health, breathing exercises may also benefit your brain.
Here’s a breathing exercise you can try the next time you feel “mentally fuzzy,” as well as information on how mindful breathing may help sharpen your focus and your mind.
Concentrate On Your Breath: An Exercise To Increase Mindfulness
If your thoughts tend to wander and you have a hard time keeping your focus and concentration, breathing exercises such as the following may help. Try this 15 minutes a day for a week and see if it makes a difference.
This is known as mindful breathing. Some refer to this as mindfulness meditation. No matter what you call it, this is very easy to do. You’re basically going to focus your attention on each breath. If possible, try to meditate while lying down or sitting. It will also probably be easier for you to focus if you close your eyes.
- Relax with your hands in a resting position. Relax your tongue as well. Take a deep breath through your nostrils. Hold the breath and then exhale slowly. Observe each breath. Don’t worry if your thoughts wander for a bit. Just remember to move your attention and focus back to each breath.
- Pay attention to the sensations your body is feeling. Feel the rhythm of your breathing. Again, if your thoughts wander it’s no problem. Try to feel your breath as it moves from your chest up to your throat and up to your nostrils.
- Redirect your attention back to your breathing and try to keep it there for about five minutes. Then think of your entire body and the way it feels. After the 15 minutes are up, you should be relaxed and ready to take on any task in front of you.1
How Does Your Breathing Impact Your Ability To Focus And Concentrate?
You might not think breathing has anything to do with the ability of your mind to focus so you can pay attention to a task. But there is solid scientific evidence of a link between breathing and mental sharpness — therefore making it one of the more potent concentration exercises.
If you’re dealing with anxiety or stress, it may cause you to lose focus on a task. But deep breathing techniques may help calm you down. Deep breathing techniques may be able to stimulate the vagus nerve, which in turn, helps to slow the heart rate. This relaxes the muscles and lowers blood pressure. When the nerve notifies the brain that these changes have occurred, the brain relaxes as well.2
Breathing exercises may also help influence the activity of neurons in the brain that affect emotion. Participants in a study counted the number of breaths they took over a two-minute period, and were asked to pay attention to their breathing. According to the results, this helped regions of the participants’ brains that control awareness and emotion work more efficiently.3
Can Mindful Breathing Increase Attention Span?
For hundreds of years, proponents of Buddhism and yoga have said that breathing exercises can help increase focus. Science now agrees. According to one study, there is a definitive link between breathing and the ability of the mind to pay attention to a task.
Researchers found that breathing as part of meditation affects the amount of noradrenaline. This is a sort of chemical messenger the brain releases when we are challenged or focused. When the right levels of this chemical are stimulated, it may not only enhance your attention span, but also support the overall health of the brain.4
Can Breathing Exercises Help With Sleep?
When you focus your mind on your breathing, it may help you get to sleep. Try this breathing exercise if you have difficulty getting to sleep.
- The first step is to relax as much as you can — both your mind and body. Get a feel for the connection between your body and mattress. Pay attention to your body. This can be harder than it sounds – but the more you practice the better you will get.
- Notice where you feel each breath in your body. Feel your abdomen expand and hold your breath for a couple of seconds before gently exhaling. Look at your abdomen as it rises and falls. Do this for a few minutes and you’ll hopefully be even more relaxed.
- Finally, take a mental picture of your body. Pay attention to any areas where you might notice tension. Start from your head and go all the way down to your toes. In your mind’s eye, direct your breath to any tense areas. Hopefully, this will help you get to sleep.5
Concerned About Your Cognitive Function? Know When To See A Doctor Or Mental Health Professional
Do your thoughts still wander even though you perform breathing exercises? Have you tried brain training games to improve your mental sharpness and ability to concentrate, but to no avail? If you’re having problems with attention or focus, you might want to consider seeing a medical professional. The sooner you address any cognitive problems you might be experiencing, the better the chances they can be successfully addressed.
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