Better Breathing Boosts Your Concentration

Breathing well boosts your concentration. Inhale the oxygen, breathe in life, and oxygenate your brain to expand your senses. Only then will you be able to focus your attention and appreciate the here and now. Furthermore, you'll be able to make better decisions.
Better Breathing Boosts Your Concentration
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 12 December, 2021

Breathing well is synonymous with living better, as almost everyone knows. But what if you were to learn that better breathing boosts your concentration? Neurologists explain that it’s about inhaling deeply and taking air in to oxygenate the brain. And this fine-tunes the brain’s targeting and visuospatial skills.

This subject is certainly extremely fascinating. And for a few decades now, science has been endorsing the practices of meditation, relaxation, and deep breathing. For example, we know that cognitive-behavioral therapy already employs mindfulness in its strategies. In addition, a study from Ryerson University in Toronto revealed that this technique shows positive progress in the treatment of depression.

Now it’s been discovered that something as simple as inhaling deeply through your nose and maintaining it for a few seconds amplifies your senses. It creates a sort of mental reset, which helps you focus your attention more effectively.

This data was supplied in a study published in 2019. However, it should be noted that this strategy was something that Daniel Goleman had already mentioned in his book Focus.

The antidote for mind-wandering is meta-awareness, attention to attention itself, as in the ability to notice that you are not noticing what you should, and correcting your focus.”

-Daniel Goleman-

A woman breathing deeply.

Better breathing boosts your concentration: breathing in and your mental focus

Doctors Ofer Perl, Aharon Ravia, and Mica Robinson published a study that is as interesting as it is revealing in the journal Human Behaviour on March 11. In this work, they explain that breathing well boosts your concentration for a very simple reason. You probably didn’t know this, but smell synchronizes your brain activity.

The key comes from our ancestors

Although this might seem speculative, it’s based on fact. In the past, our ancestors’ survival was based on smell to a certain extent. And many mammals today still use this sense to identify dangers, smell predators, and identify possible prey.

From the early stages, apes would certainly have had a much more advanced sense of smell than we do today. It was enough for them to just stop and breathe the air in deeply to make a quick reading of their surroundings.

Today, this type of ability is either lost or much diminished in ourselves. Firstly, because our sense of smell isn’t as sharp. Secondly, because we barely have time to stop these days.

Smell as a cognitive ability to make decisions

Today, smell basically helps us identify bad food and seek out perfumes that we like. Furthermore, it forms an important part of our emotional relationships. After all, who’d deny that breathing in the scent of our children and partners is an intrinsic part of our life? However, we seem to have forgotten its other potential.

And we should be aware of that potential. Breathing well boosts your concentration because it makes you alert. Furthermore, believe it or not, it helps you make better decisions. And therefore, recovering that “wild” instinct from our ancestors has multiple benefits for us. Why? Because this sense activates multiple areas in our brains.

Neurologist Ofer Perl undertook research in the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, adding evidence to an idea that’s well worth thinking about.

  • When you have to carry out a task requiring high concentration, breathing deeply optimizes your focus.
  • In fact, inhaling deeply and maintaining it improves your attention more than exhaling does.

In addition, these inhalations of oxygen improve your brainwaves and optimize your visuospatial processes. This means you make better decisions. Concentration and optimal attention let you gather information to make more effective decisions.

A man breathing deeply.

Practice better breathing to boost your concentration

You know that better breathing improves your concentration. You also know that you need to be aware and willing to carry out this particular breathing technique, as well as having the time to do so. And it isn’t easy. The truth is, we’re all used to breathing fast, taking each breath at more or less the same rate as the second hand goes round on a clock.

You might forget that breathing fast intensifies stress, discomfort, and places an excessive burden on your organs. Hence, the relevance of practices like mindfulness. With these practices that combine meditation techniques with particular life philosophies, breathing isn’t the only thing that you learn how to improve. In addition, you adopt new mental approaches and understand the importance of slowing down. Furthermore, you learn to be present and reduce mental stress and negative thoughts that hinder well-being. However, to achieve this, you must be both willing and committed.

In short, you should recover that ancestral sense of smell. Take deep long breaths to monitor your environment, oxygenate your mind, and balance your brainwaves. They’re small changes that can make a real difference in your daily life, helping you achieve a real sense of well-being.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Goleman, Daniel (2013) Focus. Kairos
  • Ofer Perl, Aharon Ravia, Mica Rubinson, Ami Eisen, Timna Soroka, Nofar Mor, Lavi Secundo, and Noam Sobel. “Human Non-Olfactory Cognition Phase-Locked with Inhalation.” Nature Human Behaviour (First published: March 11, 2019) DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0556-z
  • Teasdale, J. D. (2005). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression. In Buddhist Thought and Applied Psychological Research: Transcending the Boundaries (pp. 414–430). Routledge.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.