Brain Training, Stress Management and Yawning
What have Brain Training, Stress Management and Yawning have to do with each other and is yawning a focusing tool or just plain RUDE?
Once a demonstration of sleepiness, disinterest or just downright bad manners, yawning is now on the leading edge of neuroscientific concentration practices.
It seems a deliberate and mindful yawn can protect your brain from burn out during highly intensive focused periods. Yawning, stress and healing that’s what this blog is all about.
It’s the neurogeek in me
I have been delving deep into my love of neuroscience recently and was fortunate enough to be sent a webinar from Mark Waldman. This is where all the brain training, stress management and yawn all come together. Mark is a pioneer in this area and offers deep insights into the brain, consciousness and the practical application of the latest neuroscientific discoveries. This is no easy feat.
Mark is clear that of all the effective strategies of communication ‘words’ are quite low on the list. This means that with all the written content we are either creating or consuming misinterpretation is rife.
Why is this?
Enough information already!
Firstly our brains only hold on to seven or eight pieces of information at any given time so our attention is extremely limited to begin with.
Secondly our brains are driven by past emotional experiences that we are rarely conscious of even though they shape our every thought and response.
So, what are we unconscious to when we think we are making sense of something?
What we are really processing is the collation of relevant (and mostly irrelevant) thoughts, feelings and emotions from the past. We then form a projection into the future. In other words, we are rarely ever truly present. Instead we are using the past to survive the future. James Clear alludes to this in his book ‘Atomic Habits’ where he suggests human beings are not ‘responders’ to events but in fact ‘predictors’ of what is about to happen.
This makes sense from a survival perspective.
Being able to predict risk has meant we are still around as a species. We have all had the experience of another person leaping into conclusion before we have even started expressing something. Or, experienced someone being in the room but not really present. It is frustrating and can feel disrespectful when we are on the receiving end. If we are the person stuck in the predicting and unaware of how we are operating, anxiety, depression and burnout can be the result.
And what about the YAWN?
So what does all of this have to do with yawning?
According to Mark it is accurate to say that the humble yawn (when done mindfully) is a medical strategy, diagnostic symptom and healing tool because mindfully yawning increases productivity and reduces stress. WHAAAT?
Apparently yawning positively impacts the networks of our brain through ‘thermoregulation’. Yawning is an act of creating a ‘constant internal state’ which is vitally important for our health and vitality. Interestingly when we are resting our neural activity is extremely high but more evenly spread across the entire brain. This means we have access to far greater resources including our imagination, creativity, social awareness, empathy and values. Compare this to when we are intently focusing where only a small portion of our brain (Central Executive Network) is active.
Neural activity generates heat and when it is focused in one place it becomes harder to regulate. Over time focusing is a heavy load for such a small area of our brain to carry. Our brain dysregulates leading to brain fatigue.
Being consciously able to regulate our brain when we are anxious, stressed or overworked is clearly an important skill to learn.
Instead of half paying attention because we are too busy madly predicting, instead mindfully introduce a simple yawn and consciously direct your thoughts to open up mental activity.
A relaxation break or a nap enables us to generate solutions to our problems. This allows the other important centres of our brain to lighten the load. We become less stressed, more accessible to others and frankly easier to be around.
I have referred to this idea in a previous article here.
It’s not only about the Yawn
Yawning is not the only strategy to help regulate our brains.
When used in conjunction with:
- Observing our spontaneous thoughts and feelings without judgement and
- Using an inner ‘value’ to anchor ourselves we have the ability to regulate in a matter of moments. Then we can move back into focus refreshed and regulated.
Mark recommends establishing the practice at least every hour with 3 rounds of a mindful yawn, observing our thoughts and feelings without judgement and finally using an inner value to ground ourselves. This will keep our brain networks fresh and balanced.
The value of yawning cannot be overestimated. During periods of intense activity in our businesses such as when producing marketing collateral, proposals, branding information, website information or any other important information designed to convey our business to others this practice gives us every chance to do so clearly and succinctly because we are relaxed, focused, oxygenated and have clarity of thought. Forget the rudeness, bring on the yawn!
Dr Linda Wilson is a Mindflow Mentor, Author and Presenter. From neuroscience to energy psychology, habits change to emotional management – let’s have a chat about you, your team or your business. Are you looking to find your way through, around or over something? Are you in need of a course correction and need support. Make a time to #connect firstname.lastname@example.org
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Category: Stress Management Tools