Studies have shown that there is a connection between the way we breathe and the level of cognitive abilities we possess.
But it’s not all inhale and exhale like we might have once thought. The way in which we breathe, and the route in which the breath takes, can impact our cognitive function.
We already know that slow, deep breathing can help us calm down in a stressful situation. You’ve probably been told more than once in your life to “take a deep breath”. You’ve probably told lots of people to do the same.
But there’s more to it than that: controlling the way we breathe can actually control how we feel, how we react, and how we interact with other people.
Numerous groups teach people how to breathe for performance including militaries, mediation groups, extreme adventurers, and more. Now, you can learn to control your breathing to keep your lid on during stressful situations.
Breathe Through Your Nose
Several studies have shown that breathing through your nose can impact your memory and cognitive function in a different way than breathing through your mouth can’t.
You already know that a certain smell, say apple crisp, can remind you a Sunday afternoon at Grammy’s farm. Or bleach might remind you of a hospital stay.
Our brains are connected to the smells that come through our nose. Associating smells with trying to remember an important date, figure, or memory can help trigger those memories later on.
When we breathe, we are sending messages to our brain to tell it how to react.
It’s like a Remote Control
When you want to gain better control over your thoughts, feelings and emotions, all you have to do is breathe deeply through your nose. Right away you might find that your sense of smell is starting to take over your thoughts.
This is especially helpful if you are experiencing anxiety or want to focus on something else. When you allow air to come through your nose, your brain will need to interpret the smells along with it, thus redirecting energy to pay attention to that smell.
If breathing in can control how your brain works, breathing out can control how it works too. More specifically, when you exhale, you are looking to calm the nervous system that controls your anxiety, stress, and emotions.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, literally taking a deep breath and exhaling slowly can reduce your heart rate, focus your thoughts, and allow you to deal with the stressor more effectively than if you were ignoring your breath altogether.
So the next time you are feeling anxious or worried about a situation, remind yourself to breathe deep and breathe slow.
Pay attention to what is going on around you in terms of smell and scent, and allow your body to process that information.
If you want to remember a fond event later, remember to associate the situation with a particular smell. For example, you might look for the smell of vanilla while visiting your aunt, and later when you smell vanilla, you’ll be better able to recall your aunt. Pretty cool, huh?