How Breathing Meditation Improves and Stabilizes Your State of Mind, According to Science

Buddhists and followers of yoga have long and often touted the benefits of using simple breathing practices to better focus attention and improve calm. Finally, some 2,500 years later, scientists are trying to catch up.

A study from Trinity College Dublin showed how breath-focused meditation and yogic breathing practices seem to improve people’s attention and reaction times.

What’s more, for the first time ever, they even found a direct neurophysiological link between focused breathing and brain cognition, as reported in the journal Psychophysiology .

In addition, two studies published in the journal Science Advances revealed that different forms of meditation can have different positive effects on your mind, ranging from improving your attention span to making you more empathetic, reducing your level of stress or to help you stay calm under pressure.

The breath is often used as a tool in meditation and mindfulness practices because it is an “object of focus” that is always with us and easy to control.

meditation and exercise

Research has also shown how breathing can directly affect levels of norepinephrinea neurotransmitter that floods the brain when we are frightened, challenged, focused, curious, or emotionally excited.

The researchers discovered this link by measuring people’s breathing, reaction time and brain activity in an area of ​​the brainstem called the locus coeruleus where norepinephrine is made.

They found that people performing breathing practices resulted in greater focus and “steadiness of mind,” which was also reflected in changes in activity in the locus coeruleus.

“This study showed that when you breathe in, the activity of the locus coeruleus increases slightly and when you breathe out, it decreases. »

In simple terms, this means that our attention is influenced by our breath and it rises and falls with the cycle of the breath.

It is possible that by focusing on your breath and regulating it, you can optimize your level of attention and, similarly, by focusing on your level of attention, your breathing becomes more synchronized,” said in a statement lead author Michael Melnychuk, PhD candidate at Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience.

“Norepinephrine is a versatile system of action in the brain. »

When we are stressed, we produce too much norepinephrine and we cannot concentrate. When we feel sluggish, we produce too little and again we cannot concentrate.

There is an ideal level of norepinephrine in which our emotions, thoughts and memory are much clearer.

meditation can help reduce anxiety

You can imagine this idea or this ideal level of norepinephrine when you are nervous for an exam at school.

In this kind of scenario, a healthy dose of norepinephrine will set you up to be alert and ready to focus. However, too much norepinephrine and you might shake, sweat and panic. It appears that certain mindful breathing techniques could help people regulate norepinephrine levels and avoid these extremes.

The study isn’t just some pretty cool proof of a 2,500-year-old concept, the researchers say their findings could eventually be used to develop smarter drug-free treatments for ADHD and traumatic brain injury or even in forms of dementia in the elderly.

So, inhale… and exhale.

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How Breathing Meditation Improves and Stabilizes Your State of Mind, According to Science

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