Can we control our unconscious

Body reactions out of control

Keeping a cool head: yawning helps

Not exactly polite to our counterpart, but sometimes you just can't suppress it: the yawn. The main causes are - as you know - boredom and tiredness.

Yawning tenses the jaw muscles and breathes in deeply. The heart rate increases and the brain gets a good boost of oxygen. That should lead to more attention.

American scientists were even able to determine in a yawning study that our brains are cooled down when we yawn. From an evolutionary point of view, this could also be a reason why yawning is contagious.

Yawning together within the group could improve brain activity and thus everyone's attention in the short term and thereby enable them to act more successfully in dangerous situations. So there is good reason why this reaction cannot be arbitrarily controlled.

How embarrassing: blushing is always inconvenient

Another body reaction that everyone would probably love to have under control is blushing. If something is embarrassing to us or we feel caught doing something, it doesn’t take long to arrive: the hot and cold shower that wafts over the body and makes the head glow. The more you try to suppress it, the worse it gets.

The blushing person becomes victim of the sympathetic nerves of his autonomic nervous system - the part of the nervous system that controls automatically running body functions such as heartbeat, breathing and blood pressure.

The sympathetic nervous system becomes active in situations that appear threatening to us. It prepares the body for a possible fight or flight ("Fight or Flight"). The heartbeat accelerates, which increases the blood flow to the muscles - and also to the skin. In an embarrassing situation, blushing is virtually an undesirable side effect of a nerve function that can save lives in an emergency.

Adrenaline for extreme situations: test anxiety and stage fright

Exam anxiety and stage fright fall in the same category as blushing. Your heart is racing, your breathing is getting faster and faster, your muscles are tense, and your body is flooded with adrenaline.

We also owe this usually unpleasant excitement to the sympathetic nervous system. The alleged loss of control saved our ancestors' lives in dangerous situations by putting them on alert.

Even today, these reactions bring us in full swing for upcoming challenges such as the oral Abitur exam or an appearance in front of a large audience. Unfortunately, an excessive reaction also hurts.

A reflex with noise: the hiccups

Like the body reactions already mentioned, the generally unpopular hiccups also primarily have a protective function. In the embryo, this reflex prevents the amniotic fluid from being inhaled.

In children and adults, the main cause of hiccups is irritation of the esophagus from food, such as a piece of hard bread. The irritation causes the diaphragm to contract, the chest cavity is expanded and air is sucked into the lungs. With this jerky inhalation, the glottis suddenly closes - this causes the typical hiccuping noise.

Loss of control with pleasure: the fit of laughter

Many people could certainly do without hiccups, flushing and exam anxiety. But nobody wants to miss out on a good laugh every now and then.

With a laughing fit one speaks of a so-called affect convulsion. This means an excessive increase in emotional reactions that can no longer be controlled.

That sounds worse than it normally is. Because laughing is fun and healthy. Pulse and breathing accelerate, innumerable muscles are involved in laughing: 17 facial muscles alone, but also the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles tighten. A total of up to 300 muscles should be active. Losing control can also be fun at times.