Over the course of your life, you may have tried to slow your breathing to calm down, focused on your breath, or taken a breath and counted to ten before deciding to get angry.
Breathing to control nerves and emotions is something that many have heard of or believe in, and now a new study is suggesting how the very act of breathing may contribute to brain health.
Researchers synthesized results from rodent, monkey, and human brain imaging to create a computational model that illustrates how breathing may influence the brain’s expectations.
They found that across humans and animals, as well as tasks, brain rhythms are closely linked with breath rhythms.
The data suggested a higher degree of sensitivity to the outside world during inhalation, while the brain seems to tune out more when breathing out. For example, it may help explain why breathing can become so important in certain sports.
Marksmen, for instance, are trained to pull their trigger at the end of an exhale.
The results published in Psychological Review indicate that breathing is more than what living creatures do to stay alive. Still, it may impact emotion, attention, and how the outside world is processed.
The study author said, “difficulty breathing is associated with a very large increase in the risk for anxiety and depression. Respiration, respiratory illness, and psychiatric disorders are closely linked.”
It’s possible that this newly discovered link between breath and the brain may help explain why traditions like yoga and meditation can help to calm nerves.
These findings are still introductory, and the link between respiration, the brain, and its effect on mood and emotion should be further studied. They can, however, give you something to think about if you need to calm yourself quickly.