How to Breathe for Optimal Focus & Productivity

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Dec 5, 2023

How to Breathe for Optimal Focus & Productivity

A Historical Glimpse: The Significance of Breathing

Historically, breathing has been more than just a physiological necessity. Many ancient cultures viewed it as a bridge between the body and mind, a viewpoint validated by modern science. The neural mechanisms controlling breathing are influenced both voluntarily (like during breathing exercises) and non-voluntarily (like during emotional states). In yogic practices, breath awareness and, diaphragmatic breathing, alternate nostril breathing are believed to have profound impacts on physiological and psychological states, allowing practitioners to tap into their benefits.

Benefits of Breathing Techniques

The use of breathing techniques can have a variety of benefits. Many breathing techniques work primarily by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Controlled breathing serves as a potent antidote to stress, ushering in a state of relaxation. It doesn't just stop at calming the nerves; these practices sharpen mental focus and foster emotional equilibrium. The cardiovascular system, too, reaps the rewards, as regular deep breathing can bolster circulation and stabilize both heart rate and blood pressure. Integration of breathing techniques into one’s life can help your focus by creating a state of mind more conducive to focus as well as act in stress relief strategies..

Types of Breathing for Focus

Let's delve into some science-backed breathing techniques that can help improve focus and productivity:

  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing, often referred to as "abdominal" or "belly" breathing exercise, emphasizes full oxygen exchange and engages the diaphragm, a large muscle located at the base of the lungs.
  • How to do it: Place one hand on your stomach and one hand on your chest. Inhale slowly through your nose trying to expand your stomach, so that only the hand on your stomach moves. Briefly hold your breath and then slowly exhale through your mouth, focusing on squeezing your stomach. You want to keep your chest as motionless as possible and breath using your diaphragm, hence the stomach movement.
  • Side note (could be included or not): If you struggle with this, laying down with your knees bent can make it easier if you have a space to do so.
  • Box breathing method, sometimes known as "square breathing pattern," is a controlled and rhythmic breathing technique that involves equal time intervals for inhalation, breath-holding, exhalation, and again holding the breath.
  • How to do it: Take a 4 second inhale through your nose and then hold that breath for for 4 seconds. Then take 4 seconds to exhale that breath through your mouth and hold your lungs empty for 4 seconds. Repeat the cycle.
  • Cyclic sighing is a breathing technique that involves an amplified regular inhalation followed by a short "top-up" inhale, ensuring the lungs are completely filled, before a slow exhale.
  • How to do it: Take a deep inhale through your nose until your lungs feel [maximally] full, and then take another short inhale (through your nose) to completely fill your lungs. Now slowly and fully exhale your breath through your mouth.

The benefits:

These breathing techniques work primarily by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. This can help lead to improved mood, relaxation, energy and alertness while also decreasing symptoms of anxiety, depression, anger, and confusion. Breathing techniques can be particularly helpful for improving focus when you are feeling distracted or stressed. Next time you are feeling anxious or stressed consider trying one of these breathing techniques.

Conclusion

Drawing from age-old wisdom and bolstered by contemporary research, breathing techniques offer a natural, accessible gateway to a centered, focused, and productive state of mind. At Moonlight, our quest is to help you harness the power within, and what better tool to start with than the very breath that fuels our being? So, the next time the world feels overwhelming or distractions seem insurmountable, pause for a moment, breathe deeply, and let the transformative power of breath guide you back to your flow. After all, the journey to enhanced focus, productivity and mindful living may be just a few breaths away.

Disclaimer:

The content provided in this blog post is intended solely for informational and educational purposes. It is not meant to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or health objectives.

References:

  • Balban, M. Y., Neri, E., Kogon, M. M., Weed, L., Nouriani, B., Jo, B., Holl, G., Zeitzer, J. M., Spiegel, D., & Huberman, A. D. (2023). Brief structured respiration practices enhance mood and reduce physiological arousal. Cell Reports Medicine, 0(0). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.xcrm.2022.100895
  • Jerath, R., Crawford, M. W., Barnes, V. A., & Harden, K. (2015). Self-Regulation of Breathing as a Primary Treatment for Anxiety. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 40(2), 107–115. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10484-015-9279-8
  • 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 and Stress in Healthy Adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8(874), 1–12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00874
  • Mitsea, E., Drigas, A., & Skianis, C. (2022). Breathing, Attention & Consciousness in Sync: The role of Breathing Training, Metacognition & Virtual Reality. Technium Social Sciences Journal, 29, 79–97. https://doi.org/10.47577/tssj.v29i1.6145
  • Mo, X., Qin, Q., Wu, F., Li, H., Tang, Y., Cheng, Q., & Wen, Y. (2021). Effects of Breathing Meditation Training on Sustained Attention Level, Mindfulness Attention Awareness Level, and Mental State of Operating Room Nurses. American Journal of Health Behavior, 45(6), 993–1001. https://doi.org/10.5993/ajhb.45.6.4
  • Sovik, R. (2000). The science of breathing--the yogic view. Progress in Brain Research, 122, 491–505. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0079-6123(08)62159-7
  • Zaccaro, A., Piarulli, A., Laurino, M., Garbella, E., Menicucci, D., Neri, B., & Gemignani, A. (2018). How Breath-Control Can Change Your Life: A Systematic Review on Psycho-Physiological Correlates of Slow Breathing. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 12(353). https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2018.00353

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