Breathing is fundamental to life, and we can survive without air for only a few minutes. The brain, in particular, depends heavily on the oxygen that we breathe, and it absorbs around 20% of our total intake. If we are starved of oxygen, for example when trying to work in a stuffy atmosphere, we can experience feelings of faintness, dizziness and fatigue, and our work performance is likely to suffer as a result. In order to guarantee, therefore, that the brain will be working optimally we must ensure that it receives an adequate supply of oxygen. One of the beneficial side effects of moderately vigorous exercise is that it causes us to breathe deeply, thus delivering plenty of oxygen to the brain. And the outcome of this can be an increased feeling of exhilaration and euphoria.
A quite separate aspect of breathing is the therapeutic use of deep breathing, for example in various relaxation and meditative practices. It also plays a prominent part in many schools of Yoga. We tend to breathe in short, shallow bursts when we are anxious and in much longer, deeper inhalations when we are relaxed and at peace. A method of inducing a relaxed state is therefore to engage in some form of deep breathing, and a public speaker may often employ such a technique when feeling anxious prior to delivering a speech. Deep breathing may also be used to prepare one for sleep when suffering from insomnia.
It is important to ensure that we get an adequate supply of oxygen in our various working environments. Opening doors and windows, where appropriate, may help, and the use of an electric fan can also be of assistance. Taking a break and popping out for a breathe of fresh air is also strongly recommended!
It is well worthwhile exploring the use of deep breathing methods, both to enhance one's feeling of well-being and to develop a coping strategy for use in situations of deep stress and anxiety. I have regularly demonstrated the use of such methods at Brainware workshops. These included a technique known as diaphragmatic breathing and the Yoga practice of alternate nostril breathing.
For further information on various aspects of breathing see Optimal Breathing.