One of the most valuable tools you have to focus your mind is your breath.
On average, we take about 20,000 breaths a day. The respiratory rate for an adult ranges from 12 to 20 breaths per minute.
Breathing supplies our brain with the amount of oxygen we need, which is why breathing well is so important.
Breathing replenishes the brain and other vital organs with essential nutrients. When we feel stressed, we take in fast, short breaths, using only the top third of our lungs—not enough to function at peak performance.
Your cognitive abilities are diminished and you have trouble staying alert. The stress response releases the hormone corticosteroid, which suppresses the immune system. You become more at risk for infections and illnesses.
The bottom third of your lungs supply two-thirds of your breathing capacity.
So then, how can we redirect our focus by concentrating on breathing?
Taking deep breaths can help relieve stress as well as muscle tension. A healthy way to confront stress is by invoking the relaxation response.
The term relaxation response was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson, a cardiologist at Harvard Medical School. One way to elicit this response is by focusing on your breathing.
Deep breathing allows for full oxygen exchange.
Progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong are also alternative techniques to elicit this response.
Dr. Andrew Weil describes this technique as a “portable stress antidote. This technique is also known as the Relaxing Breath exercise.
True to its name, this breathing technique can activate the parasympathetic nervous system in your brain, which soothes you.
When your mind is relaxed, you can think more clearly, more intuitively, more creatively.
Consistency is key.
Practice this technique four times, twice a day. Immediately, you will feel a sense of calmness.
Over time, you'll feel wonderful changes in your body. Your heart rate slows, blood pressure lowers, and digestion improves—a profound return on the investment of a few minutes of conscious breathing.