Tag Archives: #breathing

Box Breathing Is The Navy Seal Technique For Reducing Stress And Staying Calm (Psychology)

With a motto like “The only easy day was yesterday,” Navy SEALs are known for their toughness. But we should probably start lauding these combat-ready professionals for being zen masters, too. The group has a quick, simple exercise that anyone can use to reduce stress and remain calm, cool, and collected. Got 16 seconds to try it?

Being a Navy SEAL is no walk in the park unless that walk is a mile-and-a-half trot that clocks in at less than 11 minutes and 30 seconds. To be a SEAL, you must be able to swim a 500-yard breast or side stroke in less than 12 minutes and 30 seconds, do 42 push-ups in two minutes, do six pull-ups, and do 50 sit-ups in two minutes. This training prepares you for war, after all.

On top of transforming your body into a fitness machine, you need the ability to keep cool under pressure, too. Maintaining a calm demeanor in every setting and scenario is crucial for a SEAL before, during, and after the chaos of combat. To do that, they do some deep breathing, using a tried-and-true tactic that can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.

This calming technique is called box breathing, and you can try it yourself right this moment. Why not? You’ll see that each of the four steps is done for four seconds, hence the box part of the title. It will only take you 16 seconds to cycle through the method one time. Just repeat the cycle as long as it takes you to feel relaxed. (This SEAL recommends doing the technique for five minutes.) Follow along:

1. Breathe in for four seconds. Make sure all the air has been expelled from your lungs before you start to inhale. Once you start sucking up your air, make sure to really fill those lungs.
2. Hold your breath for four seconds. No more inhaling at this point, and don’t let any air escape yet.
3. Exhale for four seconds. Let the air out of your lungs at an even rate for the whole stretch of time, and make sure to get it all out.
4. Hold your lungs empty for four seconds. It may be tempting to suck in some more air immediately after letting it all out, but just hang on for four.

Whether you’re in combat, reading a tweet from a political nemesis, or just trying to keep cool at work, box breathing can keep you frosty in the most heated situation. Give it a try!

An Hour In A Conference Room Produces Enough CO2 To Impair Your Brain (Biology)

Have you ever been in a meeting where you just can’t stay focused on anything that’s being said? You try like crazy to snap out of your daydreaming, but all you come back to is your boss jabbering on about who-knows-what, so you can’t help but let your mind wander again. As it turns out, you may not have yourself to blame for your short attention span.

See, according to a 2016 study from the international environmental design firm Gensler, after just one hour of meeting with others in a conference room, the level of carbon dioxide reaches 1,400 parts per million, or ppm. The human brain evolved in an atmosphere around 200 to 300 ppm of CO2, but nowadays, we’re regularly dealing with outdoor levels of 400 ppm or more. That’s bad for the environment, but it’s also bad for your brain.

As a 2015 Harvard study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found, as CO2 concentrations rise, cognitive abilities fall. At a level of 945 ppm, brain functions decrease by 15 percent. At the 1,400 ppm level that the Gensler study found, the air becomes so polluted that cognitive performance can be stunted by as much as 50 percent.

What exactly did the study mean by “cognitive abilities”? They tested people over nine different domains and found that CO2 exposure at those levels can especially affect the areas of strategizing, focus, decisionmaking, and the capacity to understand new information. Or just about all of the reasons you’re in a meeting in the first place.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: That Gensler study measured the air quality when just three people were in the conference room.Three! So, you can expect the air to be even more polluted when more people are present in the room.

So what can be done about this nasty, brain-debilitating air quality? Luckily, the Gensler study found those results as part of a larger, three-year project studying air quality. That specific result was found when measuring a traditional conference room versus an identical one with an added “green wall.” A green wall is pretty much exactly what it sounds like; it’s a literal wall that is basically full of live greenery from floor to ceiling. In the green conference room, the CO2 level stayed below 1,200 ppm after two whole hours. That’s not a huge fix, but it’s not nothing.

But, assuming your company isn’t going to shell out the cash to convert your conference room into a Rainforest Café, would a few well-placed plants make a difference? Unfortunately, as this piece at The Atlantic explains, house plants do little to nothing to improve air quality. So you’re left with the traditional options: crack a window if it’s warm enough outside, use an electric fan if it’s not. If you don’t, you’ll be back to mindlessly nodding your way through those long company meetings and just hoping that you never get called on.

Carboniferous-Period Sea Scorpion, “Eurypterid” Was Capable of Breathing Air (Paleontology)

Paleontologists have examined the fossilized remains of a previously unknown species of eurypterid (sea scorpion) and found direct evidence that these marine creatures were able to breathe in subaerial environments through their main respiratory organs.

Lamsdell et al present details of the respiratory organs of Adelophthalmus pyrrhae from the Carboniferous of Montagne Noire, France, revealed through micro computed tomography (μ-CT) imaging. Image credit: Lamsdell et al, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.08.034

The new species, named Adelophthalmus pyrrhae, lived about 350 million years ago during the Carboniferous period.

It belongs to Eurypterida, a large group of extinct arthropods that thrived from the Ordovician through the Permian period.

Their closest living relatives are horseshoe crabs, which lay eggs on land but are unable to breathe above water.

The three-dimensionally preserved specimen of Adelophthalmus pyrrhae was found 25 years ago in the Lydiennes Formation in Montagne Noire region, France.

Using micro computed tomography (μ-CT) imaging technique, Dr. Lamsdell and colleagues studied the respiratory organs of Adelophthalmus pyrrhae.

First, they noticed that each gill on the sea scorpion was composed of a series of plates. But the back contained fewer plates than the front, prompting them to question how it could even breathe.

Then they zeroed in on trabeculae — pillars connecting the different plates of the gill, which are seen in modern scorpions and spiders.

The discovery of air-breathing structures in Adelophthalmus pyrrhae indicates that terrestrial characteristics occurred in the arachnid stem lineage, suggesting that the ancestor of arachnids were semi-terrestrial.

References: James C. Lamsdell et al. Air Breathing in an Exceptionally Preserved 340-Million-Year-Old Sea Scorpion. Current Biology, published online September 10, 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.08.034

Misophonia: A True Hatred For Certain Sounds (Psychology)

You’re casually chomping away on some potato chips at your desk when you feel a pair of eyes giving you a death stare. Apparently you’re being too noisy, because your co-worker is outraged. It seems like she’s being unreasonable, but that may not be the case. People who have misophonia, or a “hatred of sound,” suffer from an actual disorder.

If you react with anger or disgust to certain trigger sounds, such as chewing, slurping, heavy breathing, snoring, sniffling, foot tapping, and typing, you might suffer from misophonia. Once coined a condition, new research has misophonia considered an actual disorder.

In February 2017, a team of scientists lead by Newcastle University in the U.K. took brains scans of people with misophonia. When researchers played the trigger sounds, the subjects experienced “hyperactivity” and “abnormal functional connectivity” in the medial frontal, medial, parietal, and temporal regions of their brains. Some subjects also experienced an increased heart rate and sweating. Their study suggests that people with misophonia experience dramatic emotional and physical responses to commonly occurring sounds. The study does note that more research must be done to decide whether misophonia is a cause or consequence of atypical interoception.

People with misophonia traditionally haven’t received much sympathy from science, but these findings go a long way. Tim Griffiths, a professor of cognitive neurology at Newcastle University and UCL, admitted in a press release that he was once part of the skeptical community himself, until he saw patients in the clinic and “understood how strikingly similar the features are.” Dr Sukhbinder Kumar, with the same universities, emphasized the importance of this study in the same press releases: “This study demonstrates the critical brain changes as further evidence to convince a skeptical medical community that this is a genuine disorder.” Basically, that coworker’s rage is the real deal. Maybe eat your potato chips somewhere else.