On days when you’re feeling a little scattered, have you ever joked to others that you have the attention span of a goldfish?
As it turns out, that could be true.
While a goldfish is believed to have an attention span of about 9 seconds, research by Microsoft reveals that the average human being’s attention span is now down to 8 seconds, versus an average of 12 seconds two decades ago.
Our low attention spans are thought to be linked to a recently recognized disorder called attention deficit trait (ADT). Marked by distractibility, impatience, and agitation, particularly in the workplace, ADT prevents people from setting priorities, making intelligent decisions, and managing their time.
Information overload is a significant societal problem and is thought to cause ADT and reduced attention spans. The amount of content disseminated in today’s hyper-connected world is simply overwhelming.
To quote Mitch Kapor, founder of the company that created the Lotus 1-2-3 software application, “Getting information off the internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant.”
Trying to process so much information can dramatically increase stress and anxiety. Sources estimate that the average person’s brain now makes as many as 35,000 decisions every day.
No wonder our brains are tired!
Most of us have been taught since childhood to take slow, deep breaths to help calm ourselves down. But science has only recently begun to understand why that works.
In 2016, researchers discovered that a brainstem neural circuit is primary in the breathing-brain control connection. The circuit is part of what has become known as the brain’s “breathing pacemaker” that can be adjusted through altered breathing rhythm.
Stress affects our brain function over time because our thoughts and behaviors shape our brains. We’ve known that meditation can keep brains sharp as we age for some time now, and research suggests that the benefit comes from the mindful breathing involved in meditation.
With that in mind, here are 6 mindful breathing exercises that everyone, especially those over 50, should be doing regularly to give your brain a break.
Some people find it beneficial to repeat this several times; others, only once. Over time you’ll figure out what works best for you.
For this one, you’ll need to lie down on your back. After settling in comfortably (use pillows or cushions as required), close your eyes and take a few slow, steady grounding breaths.
This is another that is best done while lying on your back. Many people choose to practice belly breathing in bed.
Over time, try to gradually increase the amount of time spent on the belly breathing exercise to several minutes per session.
Settle into a comfortable, upright sitting position and relax for a couple of seconds.
If you find yourself feeling scattered or distracted at this point, repeat the exercise.
Close your eyes and focus on the sensation of your body breathing.
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