You can’t think clearly when your “fight-or-flight” system is working.
The Vagus Nerve System is this incredible system designed to help you flee or defend yourself in moments of danger.
It controls your heartbeat, blood flow, even your digestion.
When fully activated, it narrows your vision and helps you focus on one thing, the source of your stress.
This was helpful when your ancestors were facing a Saber-Tooth Tiger, or when you spot a rattlesnake, but at work or even on the tennis court, this response works against you.
To think more clearly it is actually more important to be calm.
But the Respiratory Vagus Nervous System (rVNS) was thought to be an automatic response, outside of our conscious control.
When we are under stress it kicks in…but two new studies can show you how to turn this system off and allow you to think clearly.
And it’s as simple as breathing.
Long exhales are the key to shutting this system off.
It not only combats the fight-or-flight stress response, but it will also help improve longevity by improving your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).
OK, what’s HRV and why is that important?
Healthy heartbeats should not be regular. The increased variation in the time between beats is actually a sign of a very healthy heart.
It only gets rhythmic when you are under stress. So, you want to avoid it.
(To learn more about the importance of heart rate and variability see this story at Freedom Health News)
It is an index of how strong your vagus nerve system actually is and how well you can handle stress.
If you have ever played golf you will notice that some players choke under stress.
They hold the club too tight; their muscles are tense.
Relaxed muscles are needed for power, speed, and control. Too tight is too tight.
The key, it turns out, is to get your heart out of a steady rhythm and increase its variability.
So, by creating variability in your breathing patterns you increase your HRV and take control of your vagus nerve.
Just how simple is this? Fast inhales, with slow exhales seems to be the ticket.
People who practice yoga and those who coach athletes have been teaching this for years, but scientists have finally shown us this is not folklore, but serious medical advice.
Skewing your breathing pattern can improve your decision-making abilities by over 50%!
Here is what the study said:
“Deep slow breathing can increase vagal nerve activity, indexed by heart rate variability (HRV). HRV is also associated with better decision-making. This research examined the effects of two breathing patterns on HRV (Study 1) and on stress and decision-making performance (Study 2). In Study 1, 30 healthy people performed either a symmetric breathing pattern (equal ratio of inhaling/exhalation timing), a skewed pattern (exhalation longer than inhalation), or watched an emotionally neutral film (sham), following a baseline period.
Both types of breathing patterns significantly increased time and frequency domain HRV parameters, while viewing the film did not. In Study 2, 56 students were randomized to perform 2 min of the skewed vagal breathing (experimental group) or to wait for 2 min (controls), before performing a 30-minute business challenging decision-making task with multiple choice answers. Stress levels were self-reported before and after the task.
While controls reported elevations in stress levels, those in the experimental group did not. Importantly, participants in the experimental group provided a significantly higher percentage of correct answers than controls. These studies show that brief vagal breathing patterns reliably increase HRV and improve decision-making.”
By simply taking two minutes to breathe using a four second “in” pattern and eight second “out” pattern, you will improve your thinking by over 50%.
This 12-second breathing pattern can change your life for the better, try it the next time you are under stress.
And to help improve your VHR and reduce the stress in your life, look into yoga or meditation which work on changing your breathing patterns. The science shows that you will live longer and think clearer.