Breathing is the most vital tool for thinking

If one does not breath, one will die. But that’s not the only reason why breathing is so important. I will audaciously claim that breathing is the most important tool when you want to update and change the way you think.

Breathing brings you to this moment

The only way to develop your thinking is to become aware of it. If we get caught with our thoughts, emotions and reactions, we’re at their mercy. But we have a miraculous ability to observe our own mental and emotional state. This requires us to be awake and present.

Breathing is a very quick way to get you back to this moment from the train of thought you hopped along. When I concentrate on breathing, I’m attached to my body, which is attached to this moment.

Body participates in our thinking

Information era has taken our thoughts quite far away from our bodies and body becomes just the vehicle that drives our head from one meeting to another. In reality however, our thoughts, emotions and our body are strongly linked together. The information flows to both directions: from our mind to our body and from our body to our mind.

When our mind notices something, our body reacts to it. But just as well when our body reacts to something, our mind activates and analyses the situation and tries to find an explanation. For example, we might interpret the dehydration that pains our body after a night’s sleep as a message that out life is completely ruined. (I’m not kidding. Watch this excellent TED talk about this subject.)

There’s a good reason why people suggest to take a deep breath, when emotions and situations are about to carry you away. Breathing deeply activates your parasympathetic nervous system and calms you down. It sends a message to your mind that there’s no reason to panic. Breathing reminds us of who we are, where we are and what is true. And it helps us get a grip of the situation.

How will I remember to breath if I don’t remember to breath?

Alright, breathing is good. But if I’m already in a situation where it is hard to remember to breathe, how on earth am I supposed to remember to breathe?

Without practice? You’re not. At least not unless someone reminds you. That’s why we need to practice it all the time. Try to remember to check several times a day whether you’re breathing deeply and calmly. Practice bringing your attention to your breathing all the time so that you’ll remember it also when panic strikes you.

You can for example:

  • Set reminders throughout the day so you’re nudged to check your breathing.
  • Scatter post-its around the house that ask: how’re you breathing?
  • Make a deal with your closest friends to ask each other regularly: are you breathing?
  • Meditate, because meditating is mostly concentrating on your breathing.
  • Check your breathing before any physical exercise.
  • Make a habit of breathing deeply when you wait for an application to open or something to download.

The more often you’re aware of your breath the easier it becomes to be aware of it at times when you tend to forget to breathe. Or when your breathing is shallow and tense.

How else could you become aware of your own breathing? Share your thoughts in comments or come join the discussion to our Slack.

Or what do you think?

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