Mindful breathing has become quite the buzzword lately. In recent years, modern body-bending yogis clad in mass-produced tights have taken to practising it on a regular basis. The crazy part here is that this is something that actually works. As unbelievable as this sounds, mindful breathing does have its benefits. Yes, breathing does come naturally to most of us, but this is so much more than that. Although mindful breathing may not be the ultimate panacea, you may be surprised by its might. Read on to find out how this works.
Sharpens Your Focus
Simply concentrating on something as simple as breathing can help you sharpen your focus. At times, you may be so intensely overwhelmed by your own head as it continually jumps from one train of thought to the next. Little by little, distractions such as these can steal precious time that could have been used to finish more crucial tasks. This is especially critical if you’re facing tight deadlines. Mindful breathing puts an end to all of this, sending them straight to the depot, so to speak, as you remind yourself to pay attention to only one thing — your inhalations and exhalations. With these distractions successfully diverted towards the back of your head, you might then be better able to focus on the task at hand once again.
Mindful breathing can also be an excellent means of stress relief. At times, the thoughts that cross your mind are not mere random distractions. Instead, they may be harmful, negative thoughts that slowly consume and chip away at your mental well-being as you endlessly ruminate on matters that cause you a great deal of distress.
Left unchecked, this can cause prolonged stress that can take a lot more out of you than you realise. Most of us are aware of the effects of stress on our skin health and appearance, but stress is also a major proxy killer. People who suffer from prolonged stress are at greater risk of suffering from major health concerns such as high blood pressure and heart disease.
Redirecting your focus on the flow of your breathing may be able to put an end to this negative pattern, or at least, help you better control them. In a way, paying more attention to our breathing anchors you, preventing you from being carried away by stress. Of course, this can also be enhanced by pairing mindful breathing with yoga practice.
There’s a scientific explanation behind this. Researchers found that our ability to focus depends on a delicate balance in the amount of neurotransmitters known as noradrenaline. Whenever we face undue amounts of stress, our bodies produce far too much noradrenaline, which negatively affects our ability to focus. However, too little noradrenaline causes us to feel sluggish, which can also cause us to drift out of focus. Breathing can help regulate noradrenaline levels, keeping them within controlled amounts.
Consider giving mindful breathing a go, the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by stress and can’t seem to concentrate on your work. Done regularly, this can also be helpful in the long run, and not just as a short-term solution, helping you become more resilient to stress.
Keeps Your Brain Young
Mindful breathing may also be highly beneficial for your brain by keeping it young. Our brains eventually decrease in mass as we age. However, recent research has found that people who regularly practise meditation that centers on mindful breathing have healthier brains than the average individual. This also makes them less likely to suffer from dementia.
Often wrongly believed to be a normal aspect of ageing, dementia is an illness that results in an accelerated rate of cell death in the brain that simply tends to occur more frequently in the elderly. In fact, even young people can suffer from dementia. However, controlled release of noradrenaline through mindful breathing can aid in developing new connections between the cells in your brain, thus reducing the risk of dementia.
How Mindful Breathing Is Done
Try engaging in about 15 to 20 minutes of mindful breathing the next time you find yourself drifting out of focus. There isn’t just one set way of doing so. You can definitely explore the world of mindful breathing on your own, and discover which techniques suit you best. You should also be able to find numerous audio guides online that can enhance your practice. Many practitioners find that listening to these help them better focus on their breaths, rather than allow damaging thoughts to creep back in.
One way you could do this is to isolate yourself somewhere, if possible, and start by counting your steady exhalations. You can either choose to control the depth of your breaths or allow them to happen naturally. That decision lies in your hands. Once you’ve exhaled 10 times, reset your mental counter, and start counting before each inhalation this time. With that done, you should be more tuned into your own breathing without having to count your breaths.