Mindful breathing is a tool (some may say a practice) that you can use in all kinds of situations. It can be practiced right before a presentation, incorporated into your bedtime routine, or used in times of excitement to calm you down.
Before going any further let's first understand what being mindful is really about.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is often misunderstood as a relaxation tool. While it does have a relaxation effect, its main goal is to get you to be fully present.
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be aware of where you are and what you’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.¹
Whenever you bring awareness to what you’re directly experiencing via your senses, or to your state of mind via your thoughts and emotions, you’re being mindful.¹
So having some kind of mindfulness practice in your day can be very beneficial. Whether it's a breath before answering the phone or a 20 minute guided meditation, practicing mindfulness will:
reduce stress levels
boost working memory
help your focus/attention
make you less emotionally reactive, and
make you more cognitively flexible
What is mindful breathing?
The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale.² It easiest to do this exercise while sitting or lying down in a comfortable position; however, you can also stand if needed. If you feel comfortable doing so, you may close your eyes; otherwise find a point to focus on that is just beyond your nose. Then you simply want to breathe.
You can use this picture of Square Breathing (a mindful breathing exercise) to help guide your breathing.
Observe each breath without trying to change it. Focusing on the rise and fall of your chest, or the sensation through your nostrils, can help you keep your breath unchanged.
As you breath through a few cycles of breath, you might notice that your mind wanders, distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. This is OKAY. Just notice that this wandering has happened, and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
After a few cycles of breath, bring your awareness to your body. How different does it feel after practicing mindful breathing? What does your head, shoulders, chest feel like?
If you're needing an extra boost, try this 3 minute mindful breathing meditation by Stop, Breathe and Think.