Breathing to improve your concentration

If you’re struggling to stay focused, improve your concentration with this expert-recommended breathing technique

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful

Staying focused; it’s often easier said than done. We’re living in an age of distraction, with the collected wealth of human knowledge accessible in seconds via our smartphones, push-notifications lighting up our screens, not to mention the IRL distractions which seep into our concentration bubbles.

Beyond this, when we’re having bad mental health days, our concentration can be one of the first things to falter. Poor focus can be a symptom of depression, high levels of anxiety can make it difficult for us to settle, and burnout can lead to a foggy mind.

Of course, in these circumstances, it’s important to look at the underlying cause of our wandering minds, and this may include visiting your GP, or looking into talking therapy. That said, there are certain things that we can do to help improve our concentration in the meantime – and it could be as easy as, well, breathing.

According to a study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, by slowing down our breathing, and paying attention to the rhythm of our breath, our minds become more focused as our parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and our emotions are soothed.

“By consciously focusing on your breath you stimulate the cerebral cortex,” explains Niraj Naik, founder of international breathwork school, Soma Breath. “The cerebral cortex is the largest region of the cerebrum in the mammalian brain, and plays a key role in memory, attention, perception, cognition, awareness, thought, language and consciousness. Through the power of intention, and breathing exercises, you will be able to stimulate the growth of new brain cells in this region of the brain for enhanced brain function. Make conscious breathing a daily meditation practice and your breath shall truly set you free.”

One of the best things about breathing exercises is that they can be done anywhere. So next time you’re struggling to focus, why not try the following steps.

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  2. Inhale through your nose for a count of four.
  3. Purse your lips and gently breathe the air out of your mouth very slowly, as though you are breathing out through a straw. At the same time, relax all the muscles in your body.
  4. Exhale for a count of eight; imagine a wave of relaxation flowing down your body from the top of your head to the soles of your feet.
  5. Repeat the process for five–10 minutes.

As the world around us continues to adapt and change, and the way that we work is evolving as we prioritise our health, it’s likely that we will come up against new challenges to our concentration in the coming months.

But all that considered, if there are small rituals and steps that we can take to help boost our focus, as well as our overall wellbeing, we’re making a commitment to prioritising a healthy state of mind – and that can bring bountiful benefits to our overall health.

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