Take a Deep Breath for Your Brain, Mental Health
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Have you ever noticed that people tend to advise, “Take a deep breath” when you’re stressed or upset? That’s for good reason. When you need a mental health reset, pause, and breathe. It may be just what your brain needs.
Benefits of a Breath
Given that the brain is only two percent of our total body weight, it’s costly to operate; the brain uses 20 percent of our oxygen (Raichle & Gusnard, 2002). Slow, deep breathing helps your brain function properly. A 2006 study (Jerath, et al.) showed that it helps:
- Improve focus and concentration
- Decrease the stress response by keeping the brain calm and preventing it from signaling the release of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline
- Increase theta wave production, the type of brain activity associated with relaxation, creativity, and calm
- Enhances neural plasticity, the ability of brain cells to adapt to change
Breathe Like This for Your Brain
To maximize your brain health and functioning, simply get intentional about the way you breathe. Throughout the day, pause for breathing breaks
- Inhale slowly through your nose and feel the air expand your chest and belly
- Hold for a few seconds
- Exhale slowly through your mouth
- Repeat as desired
To boost your brain health, keep doing what you already do: breathe. Just do it slowly, deeply, and with purpose.
Jerath, R., Edry, J.W., Barnes, V.A., & Jerath, V. (2006, April). Physiology of Long Pranayamic Breathing: Neural Respiratory Elements May Provide a Mechanism That Explains How Slow Deep Breathing Shifts the Autonomic Nervous System. Medical Hypotheses, 67(3): 566–71. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2006.02.042 (Note: The link takes you to the summary. Months ago, I rented the article and read it in its entirety.)
Raichle, M.E. & Gusnard, D.A. (2002, August). Appraising the brain’s energy budget. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), 99(16): 10237-10239. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2006.02.042
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Today’s Question: In what ways has deep breathing helped your mental health? We invite you to participate by sharing your thoughts, knowledge, and experiences on the HealthyPlace Facebook page.
There was no romantic interest. When they first met at church, Sandra just thought they might be friends. Two months later, he was stalking her day and night. The torture lasted 4 years and left her mentally and emotionally crushed. She’ll be sharing her story and the therapies that have helped her heal on Thursday’s HealthyPlace Facebook Live. I hope you’ll join us.
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Parental burnout hits hard when you’re raising a child with mental illness (and even when you are raising a child with no mental health problems). But you aren’t a bad mom for feeling it. Get some reminders in this video. Take a peek.
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- Verbal Abuse in Work Relationships
- Going Off Bipolar Medication — Almost Always a Bad Idea
- Too Depressed To Work? Here’s What You Can Do
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