Memory

Want To Improve Your Memory? Take A Deep Breath.

Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Does this sound like your yoga or meditation class? There's a reason. In addition to bringing awareness to your body, breathing in this particular way can actually affect your brain activity—especially your memory.

It's All In The Inhale

In a 2016 study out of Northwestern University, 100 young adults were shown facial expressions on computer screens and asked to identify each face's emotional state as quickly as possible. The researchers found that subjects were able to recall fearful faces more quickly when they were inhaling through their noses, as opposed to exhaling. The same wasn't true for inhaling through the mouth, or for identifying surprised faces. Next, the subjects were shown pictures of random objects and asked to remember them later. They were more likely to remember the objects if the subjects saw them while inhaling.

Related: Photographic Memory Doesn't Exist

So what does this tell us, exactly? According to Northwestern Now, "the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall." You've probably noticed that your breathing gets faster when you're afraid. Inhaling more frequently during a state of panic might actually be your body's way of boosting your brain's response time to potential threats. Also, slowing your breathing down to longer, intentional breaths (five breaths per minute) can help control anxiety.

Related: Drawing Something Will Help You Remember It

What's The Big Deal?

In addition to fear, this study adds to the growing list of scientific benefits of meditation. As lead author, Christina Zelano, PhD, elaborates: "When you inhale, you are in a sense synchronizing brain oscillations across the limbic network." In other words, deep inhalations sync the parts of your brain that control emotion and memory. If you want to stretch your mind while you're stretching your sides, make sure to take deep inhalations through your nose. Zelano tells TIME that the findings could "lead to some deliberate breathing strategies for cognitive enhancement."

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Watch And Learn: Our Favorite Videos About Breath

How Taking A Deep Breath May Improve Your Memory

It's clear that inhaling has a positive effect on our brains.

Meditation Is Real Medicine

Meditating can decrease anxiety by as much as 39 percent.

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Written By
Curiosity Staff
January 3, 2017