Just Breathe – Mindful Monday
I know what you’re thinking; “Are you really spending an entire Mindful Monday telling me to ‘just breathe’?” Yup! I am. But stick with me, because I had the same thoughts. I was reflecting on what my absolute key tools are for my mindfulness practice as the place to start to help you build a solid foundation. Turns out, breathing kept coming up for me. I tried to dismiss it as too simplistic, but then I realized that is the beauty of it.
Did you catch last week’s Mindful Monday – You Are The Sky? If not, you can catch it here.
Breathing is necessary, without breath, there is no life. It is an automatic function that many of us never give a second thought until it isn’t working the way it should. Your body is designed for survival, it is really good at it – look how far it has taken you! Do you remember a time when you accidentally touched something hot? Your brain automatically sent a signal to your hand to pull away. There was never any thought that went into it, it just happened. A reaction meant to protect you from harm. Your brain does this when you are under stress as well; it sends a signal to prepare for fight or flight in order to survive. Part of this fight or flight response is to begin shallow breathing in order to run and/or fight. This serves us very well in situations in which running or fighting is the appropriate response. However, today’s stress is so much different. Modern stress is chronic in nature and not something we can run from or fight off necessarily. This shallow breathing triggers more stress responses such as raised heart rate, stress hormones, and contracted muscles. By intentionally slowing and deepening our breathing, we stop this cycle – even reverse it. Taking in a slow, deep breath sends a signal to your brain that all is calm and well – there actually are no lions chasing us and we are calm and safe.
How Use Your Breath
Understanding the why is one thing, but then actually applying it is another. Seems like it should be simple since everyone has to breathe, right? Well, that is not always the case. At all. Controlled breathing takes training and practice to first become aware of your breath and then learn to use it as a tool. Actually, because it is an automatic function that we don’t have to consciously think about (Thank goodness, otherwise I would most certainly not be here with all the distractions in my brain!) it makes it difficult to train yourself to be aware of your breathing. So often I find myself actually holding my breath. When I first began my practice, I needed to set a reminder on my phone that went off every hour that prompted me to check in with my breathing. Driving is also a prime time to focus on your breathing because traffic often provokes a high stress response. I recommend you apply similar strategies that work into your regular routine. Set reminders at intervals that feel good to you. And of course, always use your breath first when you find yourself in a stressful environment or situation. Next, you will need to learn exactly how to breathe – remember you can listen using the link to hear me walk you through it.
- Get comfortable
- Notice how you are currently breathing. Is it shallow? Are you holding your breath?
- Put one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly (skip this if you are driving please!)
- Take a deep breath in through your nose (this is important – your nose is intended to take in oxygen and filter it from any germs an particles)
- Slowly count to 4 as you breath in, feeling your belly expand.
- Hold for a couple counts
- Exhale slowly for another count of four (or more) Make sure all the air is expelled
You should feel more relaxed instantly. Your brain has received the signals that there is no threat and it can relax. The best part of this tool is that it always yields positive results, it is accessible to every single person at any given moment, it doesn’t cost anything, and can be done anywhere. That is exactly why I chose to tell you to “just breathe” on this Mindful Monday! This is an easy practice to involve your children in – talk to them about the importance of breathing and empower them with the understanding that they can control so many of their reactions and emotions by simply becoming the master of their breath!
Please let me know if you tried this and any tips/tricks you use for controlled breathing.
With Love and Gratitude,