Are you breathing while emailing or Twittering?

Linda Stone, continuous partial attention researcher

Linda Stone is a former executive who worked at Apple and Microsoft. Has been doing all sorts of research over the years and is probably most famous for coming up with the term “continuous partial attention.” Which, basically, explains our behavior while using Twitter.

Lately she’s been writing about a new problem she noticed: email apnea.

Today we met up where she told me more about her observations on this topic (that’s her in the picture above).

What is it?

Well, she noticed that most people stop breathing when doing email. She explained to me today that that behavior is fascinating her and that she’s theorizing that it causes stress, among other things.

I’m noticing that I stop breathing when blogging. How about you?

She suggested a few things to try.

1. Change your posture. She said that people who compute while standing up breathe more often.
2. Get exercise. She said that those who exercise seem to breathe better in stressful situations.
3. Be aware and check in with yourself to see if you’re breathing normally. She said there are some devices coming soon where you can play a game with yourself to keep your breathing up to a normal rate.

She is now writing for the Huffington Post and in her post about email apnea rambled out a bunch of bad things that can happen to you due to not breathing well.

This is one reason why I made it my life goal to have an interesting conversation every day with someone smart. If I hadn’t made time for Linda I probably would never have thought about this or known about it.

So, are you breathing deeply right now?

Comments

  1. Not only I am breathing, but I’m also doing the 80-20 yoga breathe (http://www.bikramyoga.com/FAQs/80-20Breathing.htm if you are curious!), remembering the very few yoga classes I took. :)
    Since I usually take the first our/half-our of the day in catching up and classifing email and feeds, is actually a nice thing to also use that non-intensive timeslice to “set up” my mind and my body for the rest of the day.
    It’s not a question of “consciousness”: actually this kind of breath helps you to get a correct/good posture.

  2. Not only I am breathing, but I’m also doing the 80-20 yoga breathe (http://www.bikramyoga.com/FAQs/80-20Breathing.htm if you are curious!), remembering the very few yoga classes I took. :)
    Since I usually take the first our/half-our of the day in catching up and classifing email and feeds, is actually a nice thing to also use that non-intensive timeslice to “set up” my mind and my body for the rest of the day.
    It’s not a question of “consciousness”: actually this kind of breath helps you to get a correct/good posture.

  3. It takes more than breath control to stay on top of your world. It takes a sense of “Perspective”, a sense of the “whole” even when you plunge into one world of detail after the another.

    In short, it takes meditation.Breath control is one of the ways that help you attain it.

    Look at what the meditative guys are doing – look what a stint of soul searching in India did to Steve Jobs. Or what the burning man did to the Google folks.

    Jay, from Bangalore
    http://www.ideaburger.blogspot.com

  4. It takes more than breath control to stay on top of your world. It takes a sense of “Perspective”, a sense of the “whole” even when you plunge into one world of detail after the another.

    In short, it takes meditation.Breath control is one of the ways that help you attain it.

    Look at what the meditative guys are doing – look what a stint of soul searching in India did to Steve Jobs. Or what the burning man did to the Google folks.

    Jay, from Bangalore
    http://www.ideaburger.blogspot.com

  5. Robert – interesting piece today. I am going to make a conscious effort to pay attention to my breathing patterns today. To that end, I wrote a comment on Jeremiah’s blog yesterday that upon re-reading, I must have have “commenting apnea” because it was barely coherent. Happy Friday!

    @astrout

  6. Robert – interesting piece today. I am going to make a conscious effort to pay attention to my breathing patterns today. To that end, I wrote a comment on Jeremiah’s blog yesterday that upon re-reading, I must have have “commenting apnea” because it was barely coherent. Happy Friday!

    @astrout

  7. Here’s what I think, for whatever it’s worth:

    People need breaks. More so now than ever. Get off the grid for a week or two every year. Completely. No email, no phones, no Internet. Take your family and just disappear for seven days. Go to Mexico, somepleace in the Caribbean, anywhere remote. Make an announcement that you are taking time off with your family, and just go under the radar. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results. Don’t blog about it when you get back. We all need some space in our lives.

    Scoble, one of the things I like about you is you seem to be upfront about your life, but don’t you miss even a modicum of privacy? It’s not like the hotties are mauling you are the airport for an autograph, but you simply cannot travel anywhere around people and enjoy yourself with no intervention. Don’t you miss just being the gray man? I know I would never want to be recognized in public, but I guess that’s what makes menus.

  8. Here’s what I think, for whatever it’s worth:

    People need breaks. More so now than ever. Get off the grid for a week or two every year. Completely. No email, no phones, no Internet. Take your family and just disappear for seven days. Go to Mexico, somepleace in the Caribbean, anywhere remote. Make an announcement that you are taking time off with your family, and just go under the radar. You will be pleasantly surprised at the results. Don’t blog about it when you get back. We all need some space in our lives.

    Scoble, one of the things I like about you is you seem to be upfront about your life, but don’t you miss even a modicum of privacy? It’s not like the hotties are mauling you are the airport for an autograph, but you simply cannot travel anywhere around people and enjoy yourself with no intervention. Don’t you miss just being the gray man? I know I would never want to be recognized in public, but I guess that’s what makes menus.

  9. Amazing! I wonder what other social and health related effects can you find by monitorig even shortest moments you spend with computers. I notice for example growing pains in my elbows – the right from typing and using touchpad and the left from talking on my cell (yep – while driving). We used to have the “tennis player elbow” – is it time for touch-pad elbow now? :)
    And if you really want to improve your health while computing, check out the walkstation by steelcase (I’m not sure its in sale yet) – though it may be going a bit too far :)

  10. Amazing! I wonder what other social and health related effects can you find by monitorig even shortest moments you spend with computers. I notice for example growing pains in my elbows – the right from typing and using touchpad and the left from talking on my cell (yep – while driving). We used to have the “tennis player elbow” – is it time for touch-pad elbow now? :)
    And if you really want to improve your health while computing, check out the walkstation by steelcase (I’m not sure its in sale yet) – though it may be going a bit too far :)

  11. Great points. It turns out that I fall into the category of not breathing properly while reading emails…pretty funny to observe. I find that sitting up straight can help tremendously too. I also change keyboardmonitor positions often to change up the scene at my desk often.

  12. Great points. It turns out that I fall into the category of not breathing properly while reading emails…pretty funny to observe. I find that sitting up straight can help tremendously too. I also change keyboardmonitor positions often to change up the scene at my desk often.

  13. Wreck: I enjoy meeting people and learning about them. I don’t get recognized as often as you might think and whenever I do, I always know it’ll be an interesting conversation because it’s usually a geek who recognizes me.

  14. Wreck: I enjoy meeting people and learning about them. I don’t get recognized as often as you might think and whenever I do, I always know it’ll be an interesting conversation because it’s usually a geek who recognizes me.

  15. It depends on what type of email I am reading/typing.

    If it is a problem that directly relates to me or my work, then I am probably not breathing the best. That is directly related to an increased sense of awareness and adrenaline.

    If it is ho hum email, I will be breathing easy.

    Regarding breaks, weekends are a good time to flush out my system and forget about technology and focus on my family, play basketball with the kids and de-stress.

  16. It depends on what type of email I am reading/typing.

    If it is a problem that directly relates to me or my work, then I am probably not breathing the best. That is directly related to an increased sense of awareness and adrenaline.

    If it is ho hum email, I will be breathing easy.

    Regarding breaks, weekends are a good time to flush out my system and forget about technology and focus on my family, play basketball with the kids and de-stress.

  17. Scoble,

    Point taken. I think meeting cool people is great, but for me it has to be in the right setting. That’s one of the reasons I love truly remote holiday destinations. When I travel, I love to go off the beaten path. I find that by doing this, I get to meet real people doing real things.

    Last time I went to the EU, I went waaaaaaaaay off the beaten path on purpose. I planned a very remote vacation for two weeks. I met some very real people — dairy workers, tobacco farmers, men and women who ekked out a living with no Internet, no phones. Some didn’t even have TVs. I stayed at mom and pop hotels and generally had a great time. The food was unpretentious, delicious, and cheap. The young women were all-natural and very appealing with no makeup and their sun dresses. Ah, the Mediterranean. Land of taking it slow and low…

  18. Scoble,

    Point taken. I think meeting cool people is great, but for me it has to be in the right setting. That’s one of the reasons I love truly remote holiday destinations. When I travel, I love to go off the beaten path. I find that by doing this, I get to meet real people doing real things.

    Last time I went to the EU, I went waaaaaaaaay off the beaten path on purpose. I planned a very remote vacation for two weeks. I met some very real people — dairy workers, tobacco farmers, men and women who ekked out a living with no Internet, no phones. Some didn’t even have TVs. I stayed at mom and pop hotels and generally had a great time. The food was unpretentious, delicious, and cheap. The young women were all-natural and very appealing with no makeup and their sun dresses. Ah, the Mediterranean. Land of taking it slow and low…

  19. Just started taking yoga in the new year and I’ve been breathing much more deeply than I have in the past. Until now I have not thought about my breathing patterns while typing. I did notice I was breathing while typing this comment. I type pretty quickly so maybe this won’t be a huge problem for me. :-)

  20. Just started taking yoga in the new year and I’ve been breathing much more deeply than I have in the past. Until now I have not thought about my breathing patterns while typing. I did notice I was breathing while typing this comment. I type pretty quickly so maybe this won’t be a huge problem for me. :-)

  21. Excellent post. You got me to realize again how often I hold my breath when writing — when blogging and emailing. Of course now on a Sunday night after relaxing all day, my breathing is deep. I know that once I go back to work tomorrow morning, it’ll be easy to lose the good breathing style/habit/rhythm I fall into over the weekend.

    For the past couple months I’ve been doing Chinese exercises (qigong and tai chi) almost every day. These exercises have improved my breathing quite a bit — so they seem to benefit people in the way yoga benefits some of our commenters here.

    Thanks again for the excellent post.

    -Gale

  22. Excellent post. You got me to realize again how often I hold my breath when writing — when blogging and emailing. Of course now on a Sunday night after relaxing all day, my breathing is deep. I know that once I go back to work tomorrow morning, it’ll be easy to lose the good breathing style/habit/rhythm I fall into over the weekend.

    For the past couple months I’ve been doing Chinese exercises (qigong and tai chi) almost every day. These exercises have improved my breathing quite a bit — so they seem to benefit people in the way yoga benefits some of our commenters here.

    Thanks again for the excellent post.

    -Gale

  23. Correction:

    “those who exercise seem to breath better”

    You mean “breathe”, not “breath”.

  24. Correction:

    “those who exercise seem to breath better”

    You mean “breathe”, not “breath”.

  25. I didn’t pay much attention until I started doing martial arts a couple years ago. People who don’t think about it sometimes find that they hold their breath for an entire exercise, which gives you headaches or makes you light-headed. We also practice breathing on its own.

    Some people think it’s silly when they start, but one of sensei’s aphorisms is “you move how you breathe”, so I’m sold.

    (Which art I practice intentionally omitted. Please let’s not start a martial arts pissing contest on Scoble’s blog. :-)

  26. I didn’t pay much attention until I started doing martial arts a couple years ago. People who don’t think about it sometimes find that they hold their breath for an entire exercise, which gives you headaches or makes you light-headed. We also practice breathing on its own.

    Some people think it’s silly when they start, but one of sensei’s aphorisms is “you move how you breathe”, so I’m sold.

    (Which art I practice intentionally omitted. Please let’s not start a martial arts pissing contest on Scoble’s blog. :-)

  27. Deep breathing is important, but fewer breaths (as can be accomplished with deeper breathing) are actually supposed to make you live longer according to many yogis. So, maybe twittering and blogging are increasing our lives? :-P

    Lots of love to you,

    Wendi Dee
    XOXO

  28. Deep breathing is important, but fewer breaths (as can be accomplished with deeper breathing) are actually supposed to make you live longer according to many yogis. So, maybe twittering and blogging are increasing our lives? :-P

    Lots of love to you,

    Wendi Dee
    XOXO

  29. [...] on the web is going crazy over Twitter. Some people are doing it so much they arn’t even breathing. But after avoiding signing up for some time, I finally took the plunge last week and began [...]

  30. [...] first came across the the adjective “continuous partial” in Robert Scoble’s blog about breathing less while emailing and twittering. I fell in love with it immediately. It [...]

  31. I love this concept… and I think in modern times we could even expand on it.

    For example, addition to email apnea, blog apnea and (of all things) Twitter apnea, we could include some of the following:

    T.V. apnea – do you breath well when watching drama or suspense on T.V.?

    Auto apnea – how about when you’re stuck in traffic?

    Deadline apnea – facing a looming deadline creates tension and often we forget to breath well during those times…

    eBay apnea – bidding on something you really want? Be sure to breathe!

    As you can see, the possibilities are practically endless!

    Thanks for the great post!

    Dr. Bruce Eichelberger, OMD
    http://SecretsOfQigong.com

  32. I love this concept… and I think in modern times we could even expand on it.

    For example, addition to email apnea, blog apnea and (of all things) Twitter apnea, we could include some of the following:

    T.V. apnea – do you breath well when watching drama or suspense on T.V.?

    Auto apnea – how about when you’re stuck in traffic?

    Deadline apnea – facing a looming deadline creates tension and often we forget to breath well during those times…

    eBay apnea – bidding on something you really want? Be sure to breathe!

    As you can see, the possibilities are practically endless!

    Thanks for the great post!

    Dr. Bruce Eichelberger, OMD
    http://SecretsOfQigong.com

  33. I stumbled upon this blog because I noticed the exact same behavior and decided to google it to see if anybody else had noticed it. Linda Stone is onto something. The rewards of looking at yourself and becoming more conscious are extensive. This recognition that Linda also made is one fruit from the tree of HEALTHY self awareness.

  34. I stumbled upon this blog because I noticed the exact same behavior and decided to google it to see if anybody else had noticed it. Linda Stone is onto something. The rewards of looking at yourself and becoming more conscious are extensive. This recognition that Linda also made is one fruit from the tree of HEALTHY self awareness.