I learned something new over the last week: breathing is really important.
Yes, that sounds silly. Yes, it’s super obvious. I mean, without breathing, we literally wouldn’t survive. However, after dealing with weeks of fainting spells, I discovered that the way we inhale and exhale can make a huge difference. It can be the split-second decision maker between fainting and staying conscious. It can increase or decrease heart rate. It can make the world spin or stabilize sight.
More importantly, our breathing patterns can improve focus. It’s a subconscious, automatic action that our bodies control for us. We pay incredibly little attention to inhaling and exhaling, only blowing out audibly when annoyed and inhaling in gasps when necessary. Yet if you take charge of your breathing, you can increase your focus and fight off distraction.
The next time you start to feel distractions tugging at your eyes or your thoughts, take a pause. Use the sound of your inhales and exhales as a fidget, a way to get your productivity back on track.
How to Fidget With Your Breathing
Put this breathy fidget into action with the following breathing exercises:
Alternate breathing through each nostril. Spend a few seconds focusing on your inhales and exhales, then take control. Breathe in through the left side of your nose, pressing your finger against your right nostril; exhale out the left side. Then, swap sides. Take another breath in through the right side of your nose, pressing against the left, and repeat.
Take a deep breath, then audibly exhale. Inhale deeply through your nose, taking a breath that fills your chest with air. Open your mouth slightly and push the air out, hearing yourself exhale with a “whoosh.” Repeat a few times (especially if you’re feeling stressed or frantic!).
Breathe using the 4-7-8 pattern. Suck in a breath for 4 seconds, counting as you continue to inhale. Hold that breath silently for 7 seconds. Blow the air out with your mouth slowly, counting to 8 seconds. Try to make a sound as you exhale so you can hear the release; I like to imagine that I can feel the distraction leave my body.
Fidgeting with your breathing rhythms = can sharpen your focus and renew your attention span. Listening to the sound of your own breathing as you follow different exercises draws your mind into what’s present and pressing: the emails you’re trying to read, the online lecture you’re trying to follow, the knitting pattern you’re trying to master. Yet at the same time, it also helps you to “shake off” the feelings of distraction. Conscious, controlled breathing is similar to hitting the brain’s reset button. Just like a fidget toy, which occupies your brain when you’re bored, focused breathing gives your mind something new to enjoy while you take a mini break from your workload.
Forget about feeling stressed or unfocused. An easy change in your breathing — even for just a few seconds — allows your surrounding distractions to fade into the background. Now, get focused and back to work!