Monday, April 25, 2022

Mouth-breathing is bad

Breath : The New Science of a Lost Art is an interesting read. Currently, modern science places very little importance on breathing correctly. I picked up the book expecting to learn ideas around breathing and how to do it correctly. The book did offer many ideas around it but some claims sounded preposterous to me at first (like that breathing can heal skin issues). But on checking the references on the web they possibly have some basis.

Firstly, the basics: A normal breath in-and-out is 3.3 sec. Breathing faster is generally not good. In
colder climates noses are narrower and longer - to more efficiently heat up air.

One argument that has been continuously mentioned throughout the book is that during growing years soft diet/mushy food causes the mouth and the airways to not develop fully leading to breathing problems. This malformation causes the need for braces and orthodontists. In the collection of ancient skulls none of them seemed to have ever needed a dentist as they had straight teeth - which can be attributed due to the diet of natural foods like meat and plants. It basically highlights the importance of chewing as it gives the facial muscles much needed exercise. The more time babies spend chewing the more developed their airways become.

Without warm-up exercise feels hard as it is anaerobic (without oxygen) - which causes build up of lactic acid. Max heart beat can be calculated by this rough back of the envelope formula 180-age.

Mouth Breathing is a big problem as it makes the mouth dry. Breath inhaled through the mouth saps the body of strength, deforms the face, causes stress and disease, bad breath and periodontal disease. Breathing through the nose has the reverse effects.

And this is definitely a problem in the winters as the dry warm air due to heaters dries out mouth. Humidifiers are a possible solution. However, the author said a few breaths here and there through the mouth shouldn’t be a problem.

Insomnia is linked to inability to sleep properly.

No amount of snoring is okay! I also learned that are things called Sleep Tape sold online to tape your lips to make sure you only breathe through the nose at night.

Author claimed at one point that the body loses weight through exhaled breath. Not so sure about that.

Interesting claims - 
  • CO2 therapy can cure skin disorders and even schizophrenia

  • Tibet practice of breathing(Tummo) allowed a woman to hike at a very high elevation in freezing temperatures without food, water. Tummo technique is legit. Wikipedia link

Overall, this is a decent book. It was interesting in the beginning and then I seemed to lose interest as some of the points were repeated (some personal stories can be edited) and some claims seemed wild. But good read overall. It re-inforced the idea that breathing through the nose is bare minimum and it determines lots of things in the body. Secondly, it encouraged me to get into Yoga.

Monday, February 28, 2022

How Unconscious Mind Defines Us

Very catchy title! The book is of the psychology genre exploring how our mind works.

Subliminal means below threshold or below the surface. The book references lots of studies using fMRI - an electromagnetic technology. With advent of technology we now analyze brains structure, which neural pathways light-up during activities etc instead of talking about abstract things like Id and ego. 

There are two distinct tracks of mental action happening simultaneously - consciously and unconsciously. Our mind subconsciously categorizes/stereotypes people to make sense. It is its way of sorting through things. Also, on an unconscious level, touch seems to impart a subliminal sense of cooling and affection. That's why often salesperson gently pats on your arm while talking. 

I liked learning about the Fluency Effect - If form of info is difficult to assimilate that affects our judgement about the substance of that info.  

Similarly, Munsterberg theory - 

  • People have a good memory of general gist of events but a bad one for the details. When pressed for details, even well-intentioned people in order to be accurate will inadvertently fill in gaps by making things up.  
  • And people forget the details cause for them to remember the details - it has to register in our conscious mind. Disparity with what we see and what we register is the reason.

There was a beautiful line summarizing it - 

"Moments in time maybe forever forgotten, or viewed through a hazy or distorting lens, yet something of them nonetheless survives within us, permeating our conscious."

It also raises an interesting point about if there is a connection between brainpower and the number of members in a social network? I didn't get that fully.

The book shines light into various biases we hold too - like there's a subconscious bias to favor in-groups over doing something for the greater good. Encountering difficulties together removes in-group /out-group feeling. And makes one feel good.

Similarly, the concept of motivated reasoning is well relatable. I really liked the analogy to that effect : we normally work with the worldview of a scientist and an attorney. Human brain is a decent scientist but outstanding lawyer. We poke holes in evidence we dislike and plug holes in evidence we like. We use our preferred conclusion to shape our analysis of data. 

Finally, I found the conclusion of the book powerful. 

"We choose the facts that we want to believe. We also choose our friends, lovers and spouses not just because of the way we perceive them but also because of the way they perceive us. Unlike phenomena in physics, in life, events can often obey one theory or another, and what actually happens can depend largely upon which theory we choose of believe." 

The way I interpret it is - that whatever theory we choose to believe, events supporting that start to happen usually. Thus, an optimistic person will find lucky breakthrough events happening around them and vice-versa. So, careful what theory you choose to believe in!