We breathe all day long without thinking much about it. But what if we were to stop and pay attention to our inhaling and exhaling? How could that impact our health? Let’s take a look at mindful breathing and how it can enhance our well-being.
What Is Mindful Breathing?
Mindful breathing combines parts of deep breathing with practicing mindfulness. The aspects of this breathing style bring focus to the present moment. It’s more than just breathing in and breathing out. It’s paying attention to how you feel with each breath. Positive Psychology states, “You are not trying to change your breathing in any way, and because of this, there are no expectations; you are merely aware of the breath from moment to moment.” Mindful breathing can take practice because it doesn’t always come naturally. You’re intentionally drawing your concentration to your breath and allowing yourself to be fully present as you inhale and exhale.
How Can Mindful Breathing Help?
Focusing on the breath can come with numerous health benefits. It’s a proven way to deter anxious and negative thoughts. Mindful breathing can be a helpful strategy for those working to manage depression or other mental health issues. It can even help with stress management (Mindful). During stressful situations, our natural response can be flight or fight. Taking a moment to breathe mindfully allows your heart rate to slow down, and you can shift your focus in a more positive direction.
How Do I Practice Mindful Breathing?
There are many ways to practice mindful breathing. Regardless of how you practice, the main point is to bring your attention to each inhale and exhale. You want to notice how your body feels with each breath. Draw your concentration to any sensations you observe, sounds you hear, and feelings as your lungs expand and contract with each breath. If you’re new to the practice, you might want to start with deep breathing exercises where you count through each inhale and exhale. For example, you could follow the 4-7-8 method. In this exercise, you inhale and count to four, hold your breath and count to seven, and then slowly exhale and count to eight. Then, repeat this for several cycles of breath. If possible, begin in a comfortable and seated position where you can relax your body and bring all your attention to breathing. You can close your eyes if it helps you keep your focus. You’ll likely find that your mind will start to wander at some point while you’re practicing. That is ok! Acknowledge it, bring your thoughts and awareness back to your breath, and continue your mindful breathing. Practice for about five to ten minutes at a time. Remember, the more you practice, the more natural it will start to feel. Eventually, it can become your go-to response whenever tension, stress, or intrusive thoughts invade your day.
Try using the graphic below to practice several rounds of mindful breathing.
Written by BWS Lead Health Coach- Kelly Schlather, BS, ASCM – CEP
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