Every client who comes into my office experiences the power of a simple technique that we do together…
Whether you are in rush-hour traffic, tending to a screaming kiddo, giving a presentation at work, or having a “discussion” with your partner, the number one thing you can do for yourself is to take a few mindful breaths.
- Just a few mindful breaths instantly brings you back into your body and into a state of mindful presence.
- You move out of “fight or flight” (the “stress response”) and can now use the rational part of your brain (ie you can respond instead of react!).
- When your breath becomes smooth and deep, you activate the parasympathetic nervous system – you turn on the “relaxation response”.
- You gather yourself and collect your scattered energy.
- You become grounded and centered.
You can do this ANYtime and ANYwhere.
So how do you do it?
Here is the Mindful Breathing 101 technique that I do with clients. You get this and you are on your way to instantly reducing the impact of a stressful situation or difficult emotion:
Sit, stand, or lay down.
Put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly.
Inhale — let this inhale be however it is.
Exhale — exhale completely….exhaaaaaaaale the last little bit of the breath out.
Then repeat — a few more times.
Notice how you feel.
We focus on the exhale at first because 1. sometimes folks are anxious or panicky. Asking them to take a deep inhale can be hard, forced, labored. This just gets us more anxious. and 2. the inhale will automatically follow the exhale. Once your exhale becomes deep and longer, your inhale will follow.
If you like, you may add:
closing your eyes,
feeling your feet on the ground,
noticing the parts of your body touching the chair (or if standing, relaxing the knees),
relaxing the belly,
imagining a wide and expansive collarbone,
imagining the crown of your head lifting up to the sky,
relaxing your face — eyes, lips, jaw, tongue,
then…if you’d like…
bring your attention to the center of your chest/heart and imagine a soft light glowing there.
Spend a few moments lingering here – noticing, allowing, sensing the expansiveness.
Notice how this feels.
And then slowly open your eyes.
Everything I do with clients – trauma work, managing depression and anxiety, addressing parenting or relationship issues — builds off of these simple, but profound exercises. And EVERYone can do them. I hope you cultivate a bit of peace, stillness, and compassion in your next mindful breath.
“Awake, my dear. Be kind to your sleeping heart.
Take it out into the vast field of light and let it breathe.”
“In just one breath you can begin to change your physiology, your thinking, and your emotional state.”
- Dr. Andrew Weil
“When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love.”
- Thich Nhat Hahn
“Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”
-Thich Nhat Hahn