For millennia it’s been understood—though not scientifically documented—that breathing deeply or simply paying attention to breathing can help alleviate stress and aid in concentration ability. But only now is there tangible evidence that may support the widely held claim: Yes, science agrees that those deep breaths are probably making you feel more Zen.
Consciously thinking about breathing activated different parts of the brain, according to the research.
A recent study publish in the Journal of Neurophysiology observed the brain activity of seizure patients who, as part of their treatment, had electrodes implanted into their brains. The researchers found that consciously thinking about breathing activated different parts of the brain, a discovery that opens a path to greater understanding of how to manipulate parts of the brain previously deemed out of conscious control.
Study co-author Moran Cerf wrote in Quartzy that the research “may lead to greater focus, calmness, and emotional control” and that “further investigation will now gradually monitor what such access to parts of our psyche that are normally hidden can reveal.”
Although this research was conducted on a very specific subset of the population—those who suffer from seizures—it probably can’t hurt to try a breathing exercise (or even a meditation app!) the next time you’re feeling unmotivated or stressed at work.
If you’re feeling anxious about the holidays, here’s a helpful day-by-day guide and the best way to set up your post-Thanksgiving-dinner nap situation.