Difficulty: CASUAL | Frequency: 1X/DAY | Duration: 10-15 MINS
WHY YOU SHOULD TRY IT
Stress, anger, and anxiety can impair not only our health but our judgment and skills of attention. Fortunately, research suggests an effective way to deal with these difficult feelings: the practice of “mindfulness,” the ability to pay careful attention to what you’re thinking, feeling, and sensing in the present moment without judging those thoughts and feelings as good or bad. Countless studies link mindfulness exercises to better health, lower anxiety, and greater resilience to stress.
But how do you cultivate mindfulness? How to be mindful? A basic method is to focus your attention on your own breathing—a practice called, quite simply, “mindful breathing.” After setting aside time to practice deep breathing exercises, you should find it easier to focus attention on your breath in your daily life—an important skill to help you deal with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, cool yourself down when your temper flares, and sharpen your skills of concentration.
EVIDENCE THAT IT WORKS
Arch, J. J., & Craske, M. G. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness: Emotion regulation following a focused breathing induction. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(12), 1849-1858.
Participants who completed a 15-minute focused breathing exercise (similar to the mindful breathing exercise described below) reported less negative emotion in response to a series of slides that displayed negative images, compared with people who didn’t complete the exercise. These results suggest that the focused breathing helps to improve participants’ ability to regulate their emotions.
WHY IT WORKS
Mindfulness gives people distance from their thoughts and feelings, which can help them tolerate and work through unpleasant feelings rather than becoming overwhelmed by them. Mindful breathing in particular is helpful because it gives people an anchor–their breath–on which they can focus when they find themselves carried away by a stressful thought. Simple relaxation breathing also helps people stay “present” in the moment, rather than being distracted by regrets in the past or worries about the future.
HOW TO DO IT
The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale. You can do this while standing, but ideally you’ll be sitting or even lying in a comfortable position. Your eyes may be open or closed, but you may find it easier to maintain your focus if you close your eyes. It can help to set aside a designated time for this deep breathing meditation, but it can also help to practice it when you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious. Experts believe a regular practice of breathing exercises for anxiety can make it easier to do it in difficult situations.
Sometimes, especially when trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Otherwise, simply observe each breath without trying to adjust it; it may help to focus on the rise and fall of your chest or the sensation through your nostrils. As you do so, you may find that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
To provide even more structure, and help you lead this practice for others, below are steps for a short guided breathing meditation. Bookmark this page and you can listen to video of this mindfulness guided meditation daily.
Diana Winston, Ph.D., UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center
If you made it this far, I want to thank you for reading my words. You clearly have an interest in meditation and I honestly believe it is one of most beautiful gifts we can give ourselves and others.
Every time you take a moment to sit, you show the world how courageous you are and that you are not afraid to take the whole universe into your comfort zone.