We've been through a string of wildfires, airplane crashes in Iran and Pakistan, social unrest over the killing of George Floyd, the deadly explosion in Beirut, and various natural disasters… Oh, and who can forget the still-raging coronavirus pandemic? To be completely honest, there are days where it feels like we're in a simulation–and someone, as a terrible joke, is running every possible scenario at once. So, if you’re like everyone else in the world, your emotions can probably be summed up as: anxious, stressed, and overwhelmed. Understandably.
But here’s the thing. While you don’t have any control over external events, you do have control over your feelings. You can remain calm as you read the ever-changing news. The secret? Mindful breathing.
What is mindful breathing?
Mindful breathing is where you use your breath as an object of concentration. You’ll need to be aware of your breath going in and going out, and at the same time, not trying to change your breathing pattern in any way. Just let it be. As you would when practising mindfulness.
Benefits of mindful breathing
Now, you may be thinking: “What good is focusing on my breath going to do?” Well, continue reading–you might just be surprised at the numerous scientifically proven benefits mindful breathing brings.
- Reduces anxiety – Mindful breathing appears to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure. This, in turn, reduces anxiety and stress in the process.
- Helps with burnout – In this period where days are increasingly blurring together, it's normal that you're feeling a little burnt out. Thankfully, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, mindful breathing helps reduce burnout, cynicism, and emotional exhaustion.
*Click here to find out how to avoid burn out.
- Decreases negative thinking – Been entertaining all kinds of depressing thoughts recently? Mindful breathing can help get you out of that funk. According to a 2010 study published in Behaviour Research and Therapy, the practice can decrease negative repetitive thoughts common in people with depression. Thus, making way for a better mood.
How to get started
To help you reap the stress-relieving effects of mindful breathing, here’s a step-by-step guide that’ll get you started.
- Get comfortable – Make sure you’re in a position where you can relax (and breathe comfortably). It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting or lying down.
- Start to notice your breath – Breathe in, then out. How does each inhale feel? Is it deep or shallow? Short or long? Then, how long are you pausing before you exhale? Notice everything.
- Focus on your body – You can also pay attention to the physical sensations associated with breathing. For example, how much is your chest rising with each breath?
- Reserve judgement – Don't worry if your mind wanders while practising mindful breathing. That's normal. All you have to do is acknowledge that your mind has wandered, then come back to the breath and its associated sensations.
Now, you may find yourself struggling with staying present and focused on the breath. But that’s completely normal; all it takes is a little more practice. Pretty soon, you’ll be breathing your way to Zen. Still… Need more help with practising mindfulness? Then you'll love The Daily Routine Journal, it has a daily reminder to take a mindful breath! as well as daily prompts and reminders for you to get more mindful throughout the day; every day. Check out how the journal has helped others de-stress here.