Afraid to risk rudeness and let out a hearty yawn? Well, here’s an excuse to give Miss Manners a hissy fit: According to neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, MD, director of the Center for Spirituality and the Mind at the University of Pennsylvania, yawning is one of the best-kept health secrets. “If you want to maintain an optimum healthy brain, it is essential that you yawn,” says Newberg. The action stimulates neural movement in certain areas of the mind and regulates brain temperature and metabolism—all of which can increase muscle control, enhance sensuality, and even ward off jet lag. Newberg suggests yawning 10 times in a row every day, along with your regular workout or wellness routine. A nightly yawning ritual can help you:
Chill out. Newberg says a good yawn can relax you more effectively than meditation. “More than simply calming the body, yawning brings the mind into a heightened state of cognitive functioning.”
Stay focused. “Yawning rids the brain of sleepiness, helping you keep your attention on important ideas and concepts,” says Newberg. So why do we start yawning before we hit the sack? Because it also helps regulate our internal clock: When we’re tired, yawning signals sleep.
Be more compassionate. Studies show yawning stimulates the part of the brain responsible for generating empathy and social awareness. So intentional yawning may actually strengthen our ability to be kind to others.