Olympic athletes yawn before they race. Musicians and speakers yawn before they go on stage. Snipers get trained to yawn before they pull the trigger. Pack animals yawn together to establish communal empathy. This is because yawning is the ultimate stress and focus hack.
Here are 10 reasons to yawn frequently:
1. Stimulates alertness and concentration
2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism
3. Improves cognitive function
4. Increases memory recall
5. Enhances consciousness and introspection
6. Lowers stress
7. Relaxes your upper body
8. Fine-tunes your sense of time
9. Increases empathy and social awareness
10. Enhances pleasure and sensuality
Yawning clears away the fogginess of sleep and increases cerebral blood flow. After yawning, you quickly benefit with enhanced mental efficiency and a heightened state of cognitive awareness. In fact, yawning appears to be the fastest way to lower mental stress and anxiety.
Many neurochemicals get released during the yawning experience that are essential for motivation, memory recall, and voluntary decision-making. In fact, it’s hard to find another activity that positively impacts so many brain functions. So, If you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, make it a habit to yawn whenever you want to relax or enhance your ability to concentrate on a task.
It has a similar effect on a person as having a cup of coffee. It helps your brain shift between the highly focused demands of decision-making and restful daydreaming states that give you access to creative problem-solving. It even regulates the time clocks in your brain, helping you to sleep better at night. Yawning helps you to wake up and stay alert during a stressful work day.
Yawning also appears to be a primitive form of empathy and is found in many mammals. There is a connection between frequent yawning and increased emotional empathy. That’s why we recommend that yawning a few times before entering a stressful business meeting or discussing a sensitive issue.
We recommend you yawn as many times a day as possible. When you wake up? Yawn. When you're confronting a difficult problem at work? Yawn. Whenever you feel anger, anxiety or stress? Yawn.
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Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn whenever you feel bored. Do it mindfully, paying close attention to how it affects your mood and awareness.
Conscious yawning takes a little discipline to get past our social conditioning that it is rude. Another barrier is the “excuses” that people sometimes use: “I don’t feel like it,” “I’m not tired,” and a favorite, “I can’t.” Of course you can. All you need to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it four or five times. Try it right now, and you’ll see how each yawn feels more pleasant and relaxing.
A Mindful Yawning Experiment:
This exercise only takes two minutes, and works better if you are standing up.
- Begin by taking a slow deep breath and then yawn. You can fake them at first, and if you make an “ahh” sound during exhalation you should be able to trigger a series of real yawns on your fourth or fifth try.
- As you continue to yawn, pay close attention to the sensations in your mouth, your throat, your chest and belly, and don’t be surprised if your eyes start watering.
- If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented, stop, sit down, and rest. Continue to yawn another ten or twelve times, and then pause, noticing the different body sensations you are having. Do you feel more relaxed and alert?
If you feel tired, it probably means that you are exhausted from overwork. If you’ve been particularly stressed or anxious, you might find yourself yawning a great deal over the next half hour, or even throughout the day after you’ve tried this yawning experiment. It means that your brain needs more blood circulation to improve neural performance. Enjoy the yawns, knowing that it’s a special treat for your busy brain.