Business Today

Deep Breaths Boost Productivity

Different breathing patterns engage specific parts of the brain.
Team BT | Print Edition: January 14, 2018
Deep Breaths Boost Productivity
Illustration by Safia Zahid

Have you noticed how you breathe when you work - or in the workplace - and checked if you tend to restrict the intake of breath? Often, when we get absorbed in things we do or become tense, we hold our breath for far longer than is good for us. Studies suggest that even focusing on the breath for a few moments can relieve you of whatever anxiety or tension you are harbouring.

Yoga practitioners have, since long, elevated breathing to an art form and propagated it as a means to meditate and calm the mind. But less considered is the idea that stopping to breathe deeply at regular intervals can lead to a boost in productivity.

Five scientists presented a paper to the Journal of Neurophysiology exploring the 'volitional control and attentional modulation' of breathing in humans. They said that while normal breathing is automatic, breathing related to cognitive functions is gaining interest in scientific circles. Many therapeutic techniques have used breathing but with little understanding of what happens behind the scenes. The five researchers did some 'direct intracranial' recordings. They used EEG, tracked breathing cycles and related them to various cognitive tasks adapted from cognitive and behavioural therapy and meditation practices. Their findings do suggest a connection between breathing and increased alertness and other processes. Though little is yet known about what pattern will enhance which function exactly, apparently deep-focused breathing will bring out focus in thinking as well.

There are several apps to explore breathing techniques and help put it in practice. If you have an Apple Watch, the option of halting everything for a minute (or more, if you like) of breathing is built into the device. Or, you could use any method as a regular reminder, and try this one-minute method: inhale for two counts, exhale for two counts and repeat this a few times. Slowly, increase the counts to four, six and eight. Make this a habit and see the impact it has on your productivity. Experts vouch for it

Sleep Clean

There's no underestimating a good night's sleep. Some drift off to sleep as soon as they hit the sack, while others struggle as sleep eludes them for hours. Studies show that a clean environment leads to better quality of sleep, because it isn't just about how quickly you get sleep and how long you stay asleep, but getting the right kind of sleep to restore your brain.

Cleanliness is believed to contribute to better sleep. Cleaning your room regularly, removing clutter from around you, making the bed, using an air purifier to keep it free of mites - avoiding discomfort or allergies - can ensure you have a good night's sleep. Keep activities like working and watching television out of the bedroom to trigger readiness to sleep more easily. Make your bed or ready it for sleep, and let your brain know the difference between sleep time and everything else.


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