BLOG #1: YAWNING
Well, this is my first blog and it combines mental tools and tips and brain-mind research. My intention is to get a blog to you each week and provide insights, inspiration, practical tools, tips and research on the brain-mind. I am absolutely fascinated by the brain-mind research and my understanding continues to grow since writing my book, Heal Your Mind, Rewire Your Brain. Besides the brain-mind information, I will also let you know about tele seminars, workshops in your area and/or appearances at conferences and public presentations that I will be doing.
For example, all of you in the New Mexico area, I will be doing a weekend workshop in Santa Fe from February 26-27. You can contact Elisa Bongiovanni for more information. 505-988-8839. Do check regularly the website under “Patt’s Events” for my schedule. So, now take three yawns and notice what happens in your body and your mind.
Many people believe that yawning in the presence of others is disrespectful. Thus, we cover the yawn by placing our hand over our mouth. In our society, when you yawn it is thought of as a sign of boredom. But this simply is not true. Recently, extensive research about yawning has been studied. Here are some examples of the benefits of yawning from the research.
Sara felt the time crunch as she had lots of details to take care and not enough time to do them. She had taken on the leadership role to organize a charity musical event for blind children. She knew she had taken on too much but her determination kept her on track in these final moments. In the morning as Sara sat at her desk shifting through all the things to do she observed herself yawning. In fact, she yawned quite a few times. She thought it strange as she had a good nights sleep. She wondered why she was yawning. After several yawns she noticed a mental clarity, she was more relaxed and more alert which helped her be efficient with her time to finalize the details of the event.
Josh had been lying in bed in a coma for two weeks after his accident. His mother patiently came to the hospital to see him every day. This day as she came into his room she noticed him move and make some sounds. And then suddenly Josh yawned several times even before he opened his eyes. As he opened his eyes and spoke she was overjoyed and knew that he was back to our world and would be getting well. Josh’s yawning continued over several days, she recalled. She kept wondering why he yawned as he came out of a coma.
Janet and Ray had a disagreement that lasted all week. Each time they came home from work they would rekindle the argument. Finally, after carrying the anger and tension around all week they were able to talk honestly about their concerns and feelings. After the clarity of their talk they felt closer. As they sat back on the sofa Janet began to yawn and then Ray began to yawn as if it were “contagious.” They both laughed and felt so good to be relaxed and at ease with one another again.
These anecdotes about yawning point to some interesting research about how yawing effects our brains. The researchers at the institute of Neurology in London found that yawning stimulates a unique neural activity in the area of the brain called the precuneus. The precuneus plays a major role in being more conscious, self-reflection, aids in relaxation, alertness, and good memory. Thus, when the we take in a deep breath such as a yogic breath in meditation the precuneus is a stimulated, makes us more alert and that is why we feel sense of deeper self awareness.
Tip number one: Yawn as you meditate several times (particularly as you begin the session) because it brings a deep relaxation and reduces stress. You will notice as you yawn that you will have more mental efficiency. The benefit is that it promotes the maintenance of vigilance and alertness just as Sara yawned and needed her mind to be efficient in her time crunch.
Brain researcher Andrew Gallup at State University of New York at Albany says that yawning promotes and maintains mental efficiency by keeping brain temperature in homeostasis. Therefore, yawning helps cool down this part of the over active brain as it regulates the temperature and metabolism of the brain. His research found that yawning increases when people are engaged in difficult mental tasks. Yawning helps contract the facial muscles during a yawn which forces blood through cerebral blood vessels to the brain, which may function to increase alertness. Thus, yawning may reduce sleep as it reflects a mechanism that maintains attention. Yawning also increases when people are in a change from inactivity to activity and vice versa.
Tip number two: When you are focused intensely on a project and need to stay alert and conscious take a moment to yawn every 20 minutes or so, and then sit back and relax. Concentrated activity takes a lot of energy to stay conscious. Our yawns are primarily located ln the new evolutionary part of the brain called the prefrontal lobe. It is this part of the brain that easily gets stressed and fatigued.
I imagine Josh was resetting his brain with his yawns after awakening from his coma. This notion is supported from the research that Florenza Giganti has done at the University of Florence, Florence, Italy. Yawning helps regulate the circadian rhythms of newborns and also people that come out of a coma or a late-night partygoer. Yawning resets the brain’s internal clock. Yawning appears to arouse a neuromuscular rewiring. As in a coma there is a disturbance in the brain stem. Yawning then may rewire the brain to create a harmonious progress in the brain stem.
Tip number three: Remember when you are traveling by plane and changing time zones yawn to reset your circadian rhythms. Yawning will help to reset your body from jet lag.
Janet and Ray began to feel more connected and less stressed and as they yawned they stimulated dopamine, which activates oxytocin the pleasure and relationship bonding chemicals. The more these chemicals are activated the frequency of yawning increases. Yawning is also contagious as it triggers the mirror neurons that literally mirror another persons behavior or emotional state. People who are on antidepressents may experience yawning more often especially in the first three months of taking the SSR’s. So as I say, “individuals that yawn together stay together.”
Tip number four: In stressful relationships situations simply stop the conversation and yawn together several times. If nothing else you may get a few laughs with each other. Remember, laughter is pretty close to yawning!