Mindfulness is simply being present in the moment, taking in your surroundings, and noticing with your senses. Less thinking and doing, more being.
Breathing is a function of the inhale and the exhale, regulating our nervous system response via the stimulation of the Vagus nerve. When one takes a deep breath, the response is restful or triggers a parasympathetic response. When one takes a shallow breath, the response is fight or flight or a sympathetic response.
The concepts of breathing and mindfulness are easily brought together into mindful breathing. Mindful breathing incorporates taking deep breaths and not only focusing on the breath, but also noticing as the mind wanders away in thought and gently bringing your focus back to your breath. Mindful breathing practice is beneficial in helping to calm a busy mind, regulate mood, reduce stress, and sustain energy.
Here are a few guidelines to get you started:
- Find 5-20 minutes during your day to focus on your breathing.
- I like to use the Insight Timer app, to provide a beginning and end to my meditation practice.
- Find a quiet place where you can sit or even lie in a comfortable position. Some people will even stand or walk.
- Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes.
- Simply focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. Breathing deep into your belly.
- To connect with your breath, I recommend counting to 4 on the inhale and then hold for 2 seconds then count to 4 on the exhale and hold for 2 seconds.
- Once you have connected with your breath, then you can release the counting and observe each breath focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils.
- If your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That is very natural. You can say “thinking” in your mind, noticing and gently bringing your attention back to your breath.
- If this seems too difficult to do on your own, you are not alone. A very popular guided meditation app is the Headspace app. Headspace will provide you a number of free guided 10-minute meditations to help you reduce stress during your day.
After you have finished your mindful breathing session, notice how you feel and offer yourself some appreciation for making some time for YOU today.