Relationship Between Focused Deep Breathing And Increased Attention Levels

For many years, it has been practiced and observed that if a person wants to achieve a calm and composed demeanor, or if he or she wants to achieve mindfulness and an attentive nature towards anything important in life, they are firstly and foremostly told to focus and properly maintain their rate and quality of breathing at a balanced level. This is a very common practice that is observed all over the world. Anybody who is experiencing a panic attack, or is going through a tough time in their life is repeatedly asked to, “Calm Down. Inhale. Exhale. Take Deep Breaths”. The reason behind asking someone to practice this very technique is very simple: Focused and deep breathing helps to slow down the heart rate which might be otherwise increased under stressful or anxiety-inducing conditions, and also helps in regulating the Autonomic Nervous System, the relaxation of which helps a person in achieving an overall calm, soothing and relaxed composure.

Apart from these spiritual, meditative and yoga-related aspects of soothing and relaxing the mind, and in return, causing feelings of anxiousness and tension to almost disappear from one’s life, this focused and slow-paced “diaphragmatic” form of breathing also has several physiological and medically helpful effects that play their respective role in promoting a healthy and feeling of general well being in an individual.
Making this simple yet highly effective breathing exercise a part of one’s daily life is very easy and is bound to bring a wide range of positive and healthy impacts on one’s life in the long run.

The art of breathing deeply is also known as “Diaphragmatic Breathing[1]”. It is called so because this type of breathing widely involves the simultaneous contraction of the diaphragm along with the expansion of the abdomen. This automatically causes a deepening of both the inhalation and exhalation process. This type of focused, deep breathing decreases the number of breaths taken in a minute, or the “Respiratory Frequency”, and increases the number of blood gases in the body.

The diaphragmatic form of breathing is a practice that has been used widely for training the mind and the body of an individual towards dealing with stress-inducing and anxiety-related conditions. It helps an individual to socially adapt to his environment freely, while also promoting a sense of emotional balance and overall well being and serenity in a tensed, depressed individual.

Apart from mental effects, diaphragmatic breathing helps a lot in keeping an individual highly attentive and focused on the present and his surroundings, which assure a high-level mental functioning and higher cognitive abilities.

Attention is a very important factor for remaining focused and performing well, and a lot of people in today’s fast-paced world struggle to stay attentive and simultaneously, perform well according to their capabilities. An inability to perform well or being poorly focused increases the feelings of burnout, not feeling enough, and self-pity in an individual. Trials[2] conducted in such individuals confirmed that if such category of fatigued and burnt-out people are subjected to practice deep and focused breathing for a considerably long period, it helps them to enhance their attention levels, and their attention greatly remained focused and sustained towards their basic objective of interest at that particular time.

This type of breathing is highly beneficial for all such people who are looking out for options to improve this habit of lacking attention and focus in their lives. By being attentive and focusing on each progressive and successive breath, a person is indirectly diverting all of his focus, attention, and mental energies towards carrying out this one simple task. This helps the brain to further focus and coordinate with its highly complex centers to divert the entire attention of the individual towards that one particular habit or activity that the individual is performing at that particular time.

It has been found through many different types of research now that inhaling and exhaling each breath while being extremely focused on each one of it helps to stimulate that particular region of the nervous system which is directly related to causing awareness, attention, and feelings of being focused. This happens because when a person is breathing deeply, he or she is consciously using all of his body organs, resources, and efforts that help a person to breathe in performing this task, which is otherwise under subconscious control, and a person is simply not aware of them taking place at all – as a reflex action.

Research[3] has also revealed that focused and slow-paced breathing helps in activating the “Insula”, which is a region of the human brain. The insula, in turn, regulates the body’s autonomic nervous system which helps in increasing the overall body’s feelings of awareness and also helps to reduce feelings of fear, anger, and stress. Along with the insula, the “Anterior Cingulate Cortex” region was also found to be activated in all those people who were focused on every single breath. This cortical region is specifically concerned with moment-to-moment awareness and orientation in a person.

All in all, this habit of deep and focused breathing is a very helpful and healthy technique for everyone in general. It is of great benefit especially for those people who live a highly stressed life or have highly anxious personalities in nature.

By incorporating this diaphragmatic form of breathing in one’s daily life, and regularly and consistently practicing of this form of breathing, people would finally be able to put an end to all their worries and tensions, which may otherwise alter their mental abilities and cause their neurons to shrink and die, which unfortunately cannot be replaced or regenerated once when lost.

References:

[1], [2]. Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., Wei, G. X., & Li, Y. F. (2017). The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect, & Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 874. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874

[3] Jose L. Herrero & Khuvis. Simon, & Erin Yeagle & Moran Cerf & Ashesh D. Mehta. The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, New York; 2 Department of Neurosurgery, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, Manhasset, New York; and 3 Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program and Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois.


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