4 Easy Ways to Increase Focus and Reduce Anxiety
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all of the self-improvement books and websites out there talking about tons of different ways to increase focus and reduce anxiety.
Many of those techniques are great, but can take quite a bit of practice before you start to see a lot of the benefits.
What I’m talking about here is something that many of these practices like yoga, meditation and martial arts have in common.
Our ability to breathe is quite unique compared to the other systems of the body. We do it all day, every day, unconsciously, yet you can actively control it also.
I first learned about breath control through my martial arts training. Since then it has proved to be one of my favorite and most used hacks related to my wellness. It is used by elite soldiers to top level entrepreneurs and executives.
Our breath regulates so many other functions of our bodies, and we can use it to influence so many areas of peak performance.
- Increase focus and attention
- Reduce anxiety and stress
- Improve immune system function
- Increase blood flow
- Regulate body temperature
- Improve heart rate variability
- Relieve tension
- Improve sleep
These are just a few of the benefits associated with breathing exercises.
Let’s take a look at four very simple exercises that can make a noticeable improvement to your overall well-being.
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Help you relax
- Increase focus
- Calm a racing mind to fall asleep
- Calm the nervous system
This is one of the simplest breathing exercises.
All you have to do is inhale for a count of four seconds, then exhale for a count of four seconds. Do all the breathing through the nose. Do this a minimum of 10 times.
After you have done this a few times, you can try to increase the count to 6 or 8 seconds.
- Calms yourself
- Lowers heart rate
- Improves digestion
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases focus
This is a great breathing technique to switch from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system. I use this any time I am in a stressful situation, and it works wonders.
There are positive characteristics for each system. The problem is, most of us spend way to much time in sympathetic mode. The sympathetic nervous system is the one that activates fight or flight, which slows down many other important bodily functions. This can be good in some situations, like when our ancestors had to get away from a tiger. The problem is that in the high stress environments we live in today, we tend to stay in this mode way too much because our brains cannot determine the difference between real and perceived threats.
The parasympathetic mode is when our heart rate lowers, and we go into what is called rest and digest mode. Our stomach’s movements and secretions also increase in this mode.
The process for this technique is to simply exhale twice as long as you inhale.
To start with, inhale fully through you nose, making sure you are breathing from your stomach for 3 seconds. Then exhale through your nose for 6 seconds.
Do this for as long as you can, but try to practice it as many times throughout the day as possible. After you feel comfortable, you can increase the lengths of the breaths to 4 and 8 seconds, then 5 and 10 seconds and on up from there.
Alternate Nostril Breathing
- Increases energy
- Improves balance
- Increases creativity
- Calms the mind
- Improves most circulatory and respiratory problems
- Regulates body temperature
- Improves concentration and focus
- Reduces stress and anxiety
This is a great one to use when you wake up in the morning or on your way to work.
This breathing technique connects the left and right sides of the brain enabling them to work together to more creativity and focus.
I don’t recommend using this technique at night before bed because it can increase your energy and make you feel more awake.
To practice this technique, using the right hand, close your right nostril with your thumb and inhale through the left nostril. Then close off the left nostril with one of your other fingers and exhale through the right nostril. Then inhale through the right nostril and exhale through the left. Continue this pattern for a few minutes.
- Slows breathing rate
- Increases focus and concentration
- Calms your body while sharpening your mind
- Increases awareness
- Reduces anxiety and stress
This is one I practice multiple times each day because of all of the great benefits. Martial artists and soldiers love this one because it calms them down in high stress situations while increasing their awareness and focus. It also has been great to help me repair my lungs after smoking for many years.
It is called box breathing because there are four parts to the technique, all being equal.
To start off, inhale for 4 seconds. Then hold your breath for 4 seconds. Next exhale for 4 seconds and hold for 4 more seconds. Repeat for at least 5 minutes.
After you are comfortable with the 4 seconds, you can slowly start to increase the amount of time. Just make sure to keep each section the same length.
These are some of the simplest, yet effective ways to hack your biology. Most of them can be done anywhere, and best of all, it costs nothing.
As with most things, the more you practice them, the more benefits you will receive. Let me know in the comments if you have any other breathing techniques that work for you.
For a few more tips on increasing focus, check out this article.