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Using the Breath to Focus the Mind

Breathing impacts our memory.

One way is via the relaxation response. Slow, deep, and conscious belly breathing helps to lower your heart rate and blood pressure while sending safety signals to the calming branch of your nervous system. Breathing rhythms create electrical activity in the brain and inhaling, in particular, seems to reinforce memory retention.  A study comprised of forty students determined that just 12 relaxation training sessions were enough to significantly increase focus. It also turns out that breathing through your nose can help you retain and remember information better. Square breathing, also known as box breathing promotes this.

Create comfort, and check what that means to you. Sit and raise your arms overhead to stretch and lengthen the spine. Keep the body lengthened, while lowering the arms. Relaxing your mouth, face, neck, jaw, and shoulders.

Be where you are in a state of observation. Feel that your body is sitting. That there is space around you, and in you, and that your breath is moving. Lift the corners of your mouth, to help bring a positive joyful attitude in.

1. Breathe through your nose, inhaling for four counts. Expand your lower belly outwardly. This will activate the safety signals to the calming and soothing part of your nervous system.

2. Holding for four counts (overtime you can enjoy the pause) 

3. Exhaling for four counts. Contracting your lower belly inwardly.

4) Holding for four counts.

Breathing also impacts our focus. The way we breathe directly influences our brain’s chemistry. According to a recent study published by Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience, there’s an actual physical link between breathing patterns and the brain’s focus network. Specifically, breathing rhythms affect noradrenaline (aka norepinephrine) levels in the body. Noradrenaline is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter known to play a key role in attention and thinking. It helps us boost focus, sustain concentration, and maintain alertness and motivation. This brain chemical is released when we’re engaged in the present, curious, or emotionally aroused. Low levels of it have been associated with ADHD, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and even fibromyalgia. Symptoms of noradrenaline imbalance can include:  • Loss of alertness  • Memory problems • Lack of arousal and interest 

At optimal levels, noradrenaline acts like brain fertilizer because it helps the brain grow new connections thereby improving brain health. When we’re stressed we produce too much noradrenaline and we can’t focus. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again, we can’t focus. Study shows that there is a sweet spot of noradrenaline in which our emotions, thinking, and memory are much clearer when we breathe. Respiration influences the mind. Our attention is influenced by our breath and rises and falls with the cycle of respiration. By focusing on and regulating your breathing you can optimize your attention level and likewise, by focusing on your attention level, your breathing becomes more synchronized.


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