Do you use any breathing techniques to make your mind and body healthy? There are many breathing techniques in yoga, meditation, and other exercises that help to overcome stress, control anger, and make your mind calm and peaceful To have a healthy body, your mind should be healthy. If you have a healthy, strong, and peaceful mind, your body also will be healthy.
Today, many people ignore mental health problems and they take unwanted medications for physical health problems. Many physical health problems are related to mental health. Your anger, stress, depression, anxiety all will affect your body and make you sick. Without identifying the root cause is your mental health problems, you take medication for physical health problems, and that leads to many other serious problems. In this article and video, Dr. Andrew Huberman explaining about 10 simple breathing techniques that are helpful for a happy, healthy, strong, and peaceful mind and body.
10 Simple Breathing Techniques – Dr. Andrew Huberman
- Use the breathing technique
- Reward your effort
- Enjoy the pursuit of the goal
- Embrace stress
- Keep things in perspective
- Direct your brain changes
- Understand your nervous system
- Alter your view of the world
Simple BREATHING Techniques to UNLOCK the POWER of Your MIND! | Andrew Huberman
Dr. Andrew Huberman is an American neuroscientist and tenured professor in the Department of Neurobiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He went from changing high schools, working in a bagel shop and getting into fights to making numerous important contributions to the fields of brain development, brain plasticity, and neural regeneration and repair.
1. Use the breathing technique
One of the reasons why breathing is such a powerful tool for shifting one’s state is that it’s always available for voluntary control. It’s just right there. I can decide right now to do three inhales or I can just go back to breathing reflexively. I can just do that at any moment. So the neural arc you know real estate which is in the brain stem that controls breathing is in a unique position because it’s at the kind of boundary between conscious control and unconscious control.
I can’t do that for my digestion. I can’t do that for most. Everything that happens internally, the other that breathing controls our level of alertness very dramatically. So the faster you breathe generally the more alert you are, the slower you breathe the more calm you’re going to be. The faster you breathe meaning shorter quick breaths or either way. So we’re just to take a brief adventure through the neuroscience of breathing and how it relates to brain states and there are some fun tools in here.
So forgive me for this tangent but you have two brain areas that are responsible for breathing. One is called for the aficionados. The pre-butt singer complex. It was discovered by Jack Feldman at UCLA. It is named after a bottle of wine. So now you people won’t forget it and it controls rhythmic breathing. So inhale-exhale, inhale-exhale it’s just rhythmic breathing.
There’s another brain area that controls breathing which is near what’s called the Parafacialnucleus which involves breathing any time. There are double inhales or double exhales or triple inhales. You say well why would you have this second brain area for breathing. Well, turns out when you’re speaking or crying or coughing you need to coordinate your breathing with your speaking and that means sometimes you need to take multiple inhales or multiple exhales and this is all happening very very fast.
You don’t notice but there’s a very important discovery those made a few years ago by Jack’s lab and by a guy named Mark Krasnow at Stanford who discovered there’s a set of neurons in your brain stem. Mind brain stems everybody’s brainstem and every animal every mammal’s brain stem. It’s a very small number of neurons that controls a specific pattern of breathing which are called physiological size. So these are not just size where you go and exhale these are sides that involve doing two inhales and then an extended exhale. We all do this. You do this during sleep any time carbon dioxide levels in your bloodstream get too high in order to get more oxygen into your system.
People also do this if they’ve been crying or sobbing they’ll do this and then they’ll exhale. So what’s happening with this physiological size and why is this powerful?
Why is this powerful?
So your lungs are two big bags of air but they actually are made up of a ton of little sacks of air called the alveoli of the lungs. When we are exercising or when we are sleeping or anytime we’re doing anything these little sacks of air eventually start to collapse and what happens is carbon dioxide builds up in our system and we experience that as stress. We actually feel the impulse to breathe because carbon dioxide levels get too high. There are neurons that sense carbon dioxide and then without realizing it, you do a double inhale and then exhale typically the inhales are done through the nose and the exhale is done through the mouth.
So it looks like and why the second inhale? Well, if you’ve ever tried to blow up a balloon for a kid at a kid’s party you’re just blowing up a balloon. You sometimes blow into that empty balloon what do you do? You do two in you do two you go and then it pops open. So these double inhales pop open the ravioli of the lungs they don’t explode them but they pop them open which pulls carbon dioxide out of the bloodstream brings oxygen and then you offload carbon dioxide. So if you watch a dog right before it takes a nap or something it often will do these now what’s cool about this physiological size is from work in our lab and that’s still ongoing.
I just want to say it’s still ongoing but work in other labs as well. Double inhales followed by an extended exhale are the fastest way that I’m aware of to bring the mind and the body into a more relaxed state. It messes this way if I’m stressed I’m overwhelmed just do three or two inhales through the nose and then exhale slowly through the middle one to three of those repeated will bring your level of autonomic arousal down basically to baseline.
2. Reward your effort – Breathing Techniques
Incidentally or not so incidentally I should say when you look at communities of very high performers and I’m fortunate enough to do some consulting with some people from special forces communities and so forth they’re very good as are you at attaching a reward to specific behaviours in subjective ways. So growth mindset and these dopamine rewards that we subjectively apply are not about saying oh you know I had a terrible day I performed poorly but you know what it’s great I just feel great anyway.
It’s not about that. It’s not about attaching your sense of reward to the ultimate goal. It’s about attaching your sense of reward to the fact that you’re making, action, steps that are generally in the right direction. The more you can reward the effort process the better off you are at building these kinds of neural circuits, and these kinds of tendencies to be able to lean into anything challenging over essentially any duration.
I didn’t have the power of concentration, I hadn’t read all the good books that goon high school students read growing up. I had to learn how to speak properly. I learned how to learn, how to think properly, and really learn how to commit to something. That was very linear and at times was very painful and I went to some pretty extreme things. I actually used to set a timer and I wouldn’t allow myself to get out of the chair until I was the timer went off right. So and I would experience extreme agitation but over time I got pretty good and now I can do long stints of work without any breaks.
4. Enjoy the pursuit of the goal – Breathing Techniques
What’s interesting about the growth mindset is that it seems like there’s some attachment of the reward systems of the brain to the action or the pursuit of a goal not just achieving a goal. And when we step back, and we look at what that really entails at a neurochemical level. We have reward systems in the brain. They generally fall into two categories. There are the reward systems that make you feel really good with kind of the here. And now and everything that’s within the confines of your skin and the things you already have. Love of your dog, love of your spouse, gratitude for all the things you happen to have, and that and those are generally governed by the release of molecules like serotonin and oxytocin. Okay!
Dopamine reward system
But then there’s another reward system which is the one that drove a lot of human evolution which is the dopamine reward system. Now dopamine is a very misunderstood molecule. It’s often talked about only in the context of reward like I’m going to work to this goal, I’m going to build my company, I’m going to get tenure as a professor, whatever it is and you reach it and you get this dopamine reward and indeed that’s true. But what’s often not discussed is that dopamine is secreted en route to rewards while you pursue rewards.
Now the ability to tap into that system to subjectively amplify that pathway of reward in pursuit of goals is an absolute game-changer when it comes to things like anything challenging that of long duration or uncertainty or getting through this covid pandemic situation. But the amazing thing is to remember the brain only does five things and we get to decide which of those sensations and perceptions have relevance and which ones don’t or which ones are attached to a goal and which ones aren’t.
So growth mindset in its purest form is the attachment of these reward systems to the effort process to the friction process and not just to obtaining a reward and just as a kind of final point to that there’s a very well-known body of literature and neuroscience at least among neuroscientists that talks about something called reward prediction error. And it says if you can dose the dopamine subjectively as you go through the pursuit of something and then have a lot of dopamine when you reach that thing it’s very likely that you’re going to reinforce that circuit there will be neural plasticity and that circuit will become stronger.
So the next time you will revisit those sets of behaviours the opposite can happen too where you’re in real anticipation of something this is gonna be great, it’s gonna be great, this can be great and then you reach that goal and its kind of underwhelming and that generally triggers this the circuit that I referred to earlier this kind of disappointment or pro-depressive circuit.
So dopamine is involved in reward but it’s also involved in the pursuit of rewards. And so as you reach a milestone or as you tell yourself I’m on the right track, this friction I’m feeling this late night, this early morning this hard conversation with somebody that doesn’t feel good I’m going to tell myself this is for a larger purpose. That’s that subjective insertion that abstraction that we’re talking about earlier and when you start releasing dopamine to those kinds of things there’s essentially no limit on the number of things you can do or the energy to do them. So just as the last point about dopamine when we’re in the effort, we’re always secreting adrenaline. We’re always in pursuit and it’s draining, it’s tiring.
Dopamine has this beautiful capacity to buffer adrenaline and you know this. You’ve experienced this before because if you’ve ever been working really really hard maybe your team has depleted everything’s just a mess and somebody cracks a joke and all of a sudden in an instant it’s like everything’s reframed that could not have been hormonal. Hormones work on that on the schedule of like hours to days to weeks. It had to be neurochemical, it absolutely had to be neurochemical and that neurochemical is dopamine.
I would hide in the tower books section in the evenings and I would read everything about fitness, psychology anything I could. I’ve always devoured information my favourite book when I was a kid was the encyclopedia or the Guinness book of worlds records. So I was like when I was a little kid I’d walk around the aspen centre for physics and I would tell anyone I didna even ask them if they wanted to hear about like the what’s the world’s smallest eutherian mammal. I would like it. Could tell you all these facts that were kind of meaningless at the time but I’ve always been fascinated by the inventory of different animals on the planet and their different behaviours and so yeah voracious reader and still, now yeah I love information.
6. Embrace stress – Breathing Techniques
There is something called adrenal insufficiency syndrome which is a real medical phenomenon where the adrenals are incapable of making these cortisol and adrenal hormones but the truth is that you have enough adrenaline and cortisol in your body to last two lifetimes and 25 famines. I mean we were built with a lot of robustness. Right. This explains you know that you know the David Goggins of the world. We all do have that greater capacity that people talk about that the stress is very misunderstood because people think of stress as this ancient carryover. That’s very unfortunate. It kind of gets lumped with depression-like, this is just a flaw in our design or something but actually, stress is wonderful. It actually activates our immune systems.
So anytime you liberate adrenaline into your bloodstream you also protect yourself against infection of bacteria and viruses because if you think about if we had to gather food and we didn’t have it and we had to then pack up and you know migrate long distances you can’t afford to get sick. And this is why people who work and then rest usually get sick when they finally stop and rest. It’s like the post-finals phenomenon in university or after the season or a game or the caretakers’ thing where you’re taking care of somebody who’s ill and you’re just working or taking care of young children and then you finally stop to rest. You go on vacation and you get slammed with what is that because you’re being in your comfort zone. Now, are you just getting stress turned off and adrenaline and so that these the stress response recruits the immune organs of the body to release killer cells.
In fact wim hof breathing I know you’re familiar with a whim of doing 20 or 30 deep inhales and exhales and also combined with some breath hold type work exhale, hold inhale, hold is known to stimulate adrenaline release and one of the better papers that’s out there. Scientific peer-reviewed papers is a study published in the Pristine National Academy Of Sciences where they brought in two groups. One group did wim hof breathing, the other group did just mindful meditation. Both groups were injected with e coliright crazy right crazy it’s crazy.
The meditators got fever diarrhoea and vomiting and the people who did wim hof either didn’t get it or got it to a much lesser extent sluggish. But that’s right. They didn’t right this is not an experiment to do at home, isn’t this crazy. But it makes perfect sense because it inc that breathing simulates a stress response. It stimulates cortisol and adrenaline which signals protects the body right, which signals to the thymus the spleen, and the other. You know the nodes of the immune system to liberate killer cells. And so when that bacteria comes in the system is ready for it your body is defending against viruses that’s right. A disease that’s right. Potentially when you create a routine of healthy stress. That’s right. And we can talk about we definitely want to you don’t want stress on all the time sleep is really important etc but that stress response combats infection because it recruits immune cells.
7. Keep things in perspective
Why fear? Why do we have fears? Why do we have trauma? Why do we have shame? And here’s the stinger. It was all set up for you in your youth. I don’t want to focus on the bad but most of the stuff when you’re young. You’re just a passive learning machine. It’s all coming in little kids are learning three languages with no accents flexibly. They’re not even thinking about their learning instruments.
Someone asked a great question the other day at the workshop wait now I know I want all that stuff how to come it’s so much tougher. And there’s a lot of biology that I’d be happy to tell you about that explains why that all shuts down after these so-called critical periods during development. So what happens when you’re an adult and you want to change your brain? So now I’m going to get into the stuff that’s that hopefully is useful to you. Okay!
So these basic facts that changing your brain in a real way as an adult requires that you do particular things that activate particular chemical systems in your brain. So how do you do that? Right I could tell you all about the chemicals and I’ll tell you a little bit about them but how do you do it? Okay, so this is a right here right now urgent situation car wreck. It’s terrible you can imagine any other trauma in its place when that happens in a little area in the base of the brain the name isn’t important but if you care it’s called nucleus basalis does its job which is just it’s an alert system.
It puts all its attention on right here right now get everybody safe it’s your alert system and it has this effect of dumping out a certain chemical called acetylcholine at specific locations in the brain that are paired with that experience and forever that experience will be traumatic unless something else is done. Okay so there’s some nuance and some details to this but that pretty much summarizes it it’s been replicated many many times in dozens of studies you can pair pretty much any experience with stimulation of nucleus basalis this thing in the base of the brain and that experience will be mapped or remapped in your brain as an adult and that’s remarkable. It’s also exciting because then someone like me says well, then how do I change my experience how do I change the meaning of what happens?
How do I change something from traumatic to positive?
The good news is nucleus basalis is just a slave to whatever is exciting traumatic, it likes emotion, it like peaks and lows. And so if acetylcholine is released that means you can massively change your brain at that moment with whatever’s paired with it and so when you get into a peak state here you’re jumping up and down or in a really low state and you’re thinking how miserable something is? You have to be really careful because those are the things that you’re wiring in. All right, so you can move to a state like this about driving later if you form enough associations with driving. To really eliminate to override the fear you need to create a positive experience in its place.
So how do you do that? So I’m going to tell you that the way you do that is not to think too hard and to not verbalize things too much. And this is coming from someone who spent 25years three times a week on a couch letting subconscious things geyser up and that’s where I really learned that. It was really the things that you don’t realize that have the potential to have the most impact but this power of emotion, the ability to a couple of really strong emotions with things is so useful. If you want to change your brain for the better and the way you do that is clear in the physical space.
We all know this story there are many news cases like this woman’s child stuck under car superhuman strength. We heard a lot of amazing stories about desperation. JJ’s story was one of desperation she’s like no I’m not going to accept failure because failure in the case in case she was describing was potentially the death of her child. So desperation is a strong one and it’s motivated by fear but what if you’re not in a desperate state and you really want to do something. In that case, there’s something remarkable and then we should and we should ask ourselves why are children such great passive learners they’re not trying, they’re just learning. They’re coming home with all sorts of things sometimes things you don’t want them to come home with. Right!
It’s because they have this element of play and what is play. Play isn’t just movement although it includes movement it’s giving things everything you’ve got, but keeping it in perspective. It’s that sweet spot of enjoying life and trying really really hard at it. At the same time, it’s essentially what we all strive for and there are these incredible cases throughout history famous scientists.
Because I grew up in a house where people you know revered scientists like Richard Feynman Nobel prize winner. He’s most famous for bongo drumming naked on the roof of Caltech and he became an amazing artist in his 60s and he developed all sorts of other skills and he always had this childlike way of looking at the world. He never let himself get stuck in his ways, never became a curmudgeon and a markable man. And that’s something that if you come away with nothing else I encourage you to do that. You want your brain to change, stay light, stay loose but give it everything you’ve got.
8. Direct your brain changes – Breathing Techniques
Can a person make it so they never get depressed, they never react to their perception, their people’s actions towards them, where they never get to a state of I don’t feel good, I’m feeling more depressed, I’m in a dark place, now I’m stuck in this place. Is there a way that we could ever defend ourselves against negative stress or negative emotions or are we just are they? Do we need them as well to have contrast in life? Well, there are sort of two views on this I’ll reveal mine after I sort of explain the two views. One is that these states I guess I’m automatically calling things like depression a state of mind.
So when I say the state of mind, I mean brain and body because your body is really feeling it’s like the brain is connected to the body. Right, and so if you’re saying internally the thought of like I’m depressed I don’t feel good or I’m sad or lonely or I’m not good enough, the body’s going to react is that what I’m understanding. Absolutely the body’s going to manifest what the mind is telling you absolutely the thought the idea you’re going to be like. I’m sad, I’m not good enough you’re going to shrink. Right, is that right? That’s right.
I mean they’re really two forms of depression and sometimes they’re intermixed but one is anxiety-associated depression and if you’ve ever experienced it or anyone that’s experienced it they feel agitation in their body and their mind races but in their body. So the body is recruited. There are also depressive states that people feel very fatigued and exhausted. It’s been overwhelmed and they also experience that in their body. The idea of getting out of bed in the morning is hard motivating to exercise, doing the sorts of things that we know are powerful for pushing back on depression. So the body is recruited.
I think most people would say that depressive states are bad when they bring down the baseline on life. I just to as a brief aside anytime there’s a question about mental health or addiction or trauma or anything one could look at it and make up some argument of low evolutionarily. This makes sense. We all get depressed but we have to be fair to the person experiencing it of course and have a sensitivity that some behaviours will keep the baseline of our life steady. Meaning job relationships etc will continue as they are other activities that will tend to improve the baseline of our life.
Job activities relationships etc will improve and then there are some things like heroin which does very quickly. we can predict that very quickly the baseline on life is going to creep down regardless of who that person is. So people say can you get addicted to water? Well, maybe but I have to drink a lot of water before the baseline of my life starts to go down. So sure it feels uncomfortable that’s just like man I’m so bloated exactly.
So we tend to throw around things like addiction and depression a little loosely. So I think that it’s fair to say that depression is wired into us as a possible state that we can all fall into but that it’s very important in my opinion that humans have tools to remove themselves from that state of course to avoid tragedies like suicide but also. Because when the baseline on someone’s life goes down far enough they find it increasingly hard to do the sorts of things that didn’t get them out of depression so you or I could say. So they stay in that state of depression because that’s right.
It’s too hard to go to work it’s too hard to change my habit of eating healthier. So I’m gonna stay I’m gonna keep eating ice cream which is going to make my body you know depressed. If I keep eating bad foods if I keep staying up till 4 am if I keep staying in a toxic relationship I want to feel depressed that’s right. And eventually because of this very inseparable relationship between the brain and body. Eventually what happens is that because the brain controls the body but also the body can control the brain people lose the ability to intervene in this depressive process. So you or I could say look if someone who’s depressed they what they need to do is get up early, get some light in their eyes, get some movement.
I know you put this information out there which I love because these tips are grounded in, they’re not even tips they’re really tools and they’re very powerful. Because they’re grounded in excellent science you get that dopamine release early in the day that’s anti-depressive you time your sleep better when you get sun in your eyes and you get movement early in the day for most people that are accessible and they should be they absolutely should be doing it. Everyone should be doing that but for people who are far enough down that path of depression because the body and the mind have this relationship that’s so close. There is a crossover point where they really can’t do those activities because they’re so far deep in the depression the body won’t do what they decide to do.
And so now I’m not trying to give anyone a pass because ultimately we are all responsible for our own mental health certainly adults more than kids. But you know we’re all responsible for our own mental health and only we can direct our own brain changes that is the stinger. Once we’re you know 25 years and older we are the only ones that can change our brain and we can talk about neuroplasticity if you like but the depressed person has to take responsibility for their behaviour. But this is why it’s so important to catch this brain-body relationship early and build routines that keep one out of depression. So that was a long path back to answer your question succinctly. I hope which is we can stay out of depression but we have to keep depression at bay by doing things regularly.
9. Understand your nervous system – Breathing Techniques
The study of neuroscience is really about what the nervous system does and amazingly enough, the nervous system is responsible for everything that happens to us from the time that we’re born until the time we die. But that really boils down to only five things the nervous system has the responsibility of sensation.
So sensing the physical events in the environment we have these so-called receptors in the eyes and the ears and the nose and the mouth on the skin that take physical entities in the universe that are real fixed non-negotiable things like sound waves and photons of light and chemicals in the environment travelling that make it into our nose and things like that and convert those into the second thing which is perceptions.
So the nervous system’s responsibility is to take those sensations which are non-negotiable and perceive certain ones and not others. So for instance right now until I say you know what’s the sensation of your feet contacting the floor or the bottoms of your shoes you weren’t thinking about it but those pressure receptors were being engaged the entire time. So your perception is like a window or a spotlight that’s very much linked to attention.
Then there are emotions often called feelings and those are really designed to push us down particular avenues of perception.
And the next thing is thoughts. We’ve got sensation, perception feelings and then there are thoughts that really have a lot to do with what we’re perceiving and the way we’re organizing those perceptions. What they mean and generally that’s put into the context of what we already know or memories.
And then the fifth thing is behaviours or actions and of course, neurons are responsible for generating actions and they’re really two kinds of actions there are the actions that you generate reflexively like your breathing and your heart rate right now are largely reflexive or you could decide troll of your respiration and be make it voluntary right and not just reflexive.
So those five things sensations, perceptions, feelings, thoughts, and actions really encompass all of our life experience and that’s from the very mundane of getting up in the morning and brushing your teeth to the most awe-inspiring goal-motivated pinnacle moments of your life. The nervous system, not the immune system, not the digestive system. All of these are important but the nervous system meaning the brain, spinal cord, and the connections with the body and the connections from the body back to the brain and spinal cord are responsible for all of that.
10. Alter your view of the world
I don’t care what anyone says, I don’t care what alignment the earth is in everything is happening because your brain has these three jobs and all of your experience is filtered through that thing in your head. That pile of cells that are arranged in a very specific way that we’re still trying to understand is called your brain just like we could be talking about the heart whose job is to pump blood. So I want to describe just how the brain works in three basic ways two of which you’ve heard about before. W
e over the lizard brain the thing that freaks you out when you think there’s someone standing in the corner and they turn on the light there’s nobody or if you were to come upon a car wreck and all of a sudden your heart’s pumping your brain is very good at that stuff and that’s great. That’s why you’re alive at this moment. It is an unerring unfailing system keeping you alive your lizard brain and it’s generally designed to keep you alive and to scare you from doing things that would hurt you. It’s a shame because I would have liked it to be generally good at making me feel good all the time but that’s generally not what it’s good at.
And I’m stealing from the great Tony Robbins who says you know there are paved roads to fear and misery and cobblestone or dirt roads to happiness and that’s true at the level of neuroanatomy. You don’t have a whole lot of your brain devoted to happiness, you got a lot of your brain designed to keep you safe. So anxieties and fears come about a lot easier you need to combat those we’re all getting better at that thinking, planning, imagining, and doing is the other kind of end of the spectrum. I talked about that and then there’s the one that really counts right which is this thing in the middle which is the way that those things are connected.
What do you think depends on how you feel, what you feel depends on how you think. We know this now there’s kind of common knowledge and it’s these maps of your experience it depends on what happened to you and how you view the world. And we know this at a psychological level neuroscientists sometimes talk like this they often don’t I’m in the minority but there’s a lot of neuroanatomies. There’s a lot of powerful neuroscience to support this. What do I mean by your maps of experience? I mean what happened to you shapes how you view the world and so what’s important is how you change, how you view the world if you want to go forward beyond what would just be how you were programmed.
What are the breathing techniques that attracted you to follow in your life? Hope that from the above you must have realised that good mental health is important for a healthy body and happiness in life. Today, we are living in a busy and stressful world. We must find a few minutes daily to help the mind and body to relax. You should Reprogram Your Subconscious Mind Before You Sleep. Do you know your conscious mind commands and your subconscious mind obeys? So you must regularly reprogram your subconscious mind to get what you want in life.
Are you using any of the above-mentioned breathing techniques?
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Mathukutty P. V. is the founder of Simply Life Tips, a passionate Blogger, Content writer, Influencer, YouTuber. Lives with a notion “SIMPLE LIVING, CREATIVE THINKING”. Believe – “Sharing is caring.” “Learning never ends.”