We have all heard, or been told the expression, “take a deep breath” when we need to calm down from a stressful situation. We know breathing can help reduce the anxiety or stress of the situation but most of us never think or consider physiological mechanism of how it actually settles us down.
During the exhale of a deep diaphragmatic breath, your vagus nerve is fired stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system. This is your calm, relaxed state of mind/being, and is the key component to mindfulness and meditation. When you are calm and breathing properly through your diaphragm your ability to think rationally, respond vs. react to situations, sleep, and digest food just to name a few is at its highest.
A mindfulness practice begins with the breath. A meditation practice begins with breath. EVERY action, sport, day begins with breath… However, most of us begin each day in a busy hurry as soon as the alarm goes off with short quick chest breaths, never thinking or considering to begin the day with a few minutes of deep diaphragmatic mindful breathing to start your day off a bit more calm, centered, grounded and focused. Below is how I recommend you introduce mindful breathing into your day, and how to use it throughout the day to help you reduce stress and become more mindful and present.
- As soon as you wake up, before getting out of bed, take 5 minutes to lie on your back, place your hands on your stomach to feel it rise and fall, and simply breathe…. Don’t force inhale/exhales just take full relaxing breaths
- While breathing in bed try to ONLY think about your breath… Feel the air go in your nose and notice how it feels cool, then notice how it feels warm as you exhale through your nose
- When commuting to work, sit up straight in your car seat, place your hands at 10 & 2 on the wheel and repeat the same relaxing breath pattern as you did in bed. Don’t worry about other drivers or changing lanes…. Just breathe… Do this for at least 5 minutes
- Take 1-5 minutes during the day to either stand up or sit upright in your chair, close your eyes and breathe… Again, the goal is to focus only on your breath. If/when you notice yourself beginning to think about something else, that is totally fine & normal. Simply recognize that thought, let it go, and return back to your breath. Even if this is only for 1 minute… ***NOTE you may want to set an alarm/notification on your phone or computer to remind you to breathe J
- Repeat step 2 on your way home
- End the day in bed with breathing just as you began the day.. The goal is to breathe nice and relaxed, focused only on the inhale and exhale until you fall asleep. This may take a little time to nail down but within a few days of consistency you will begin to fall asleep quicker/easier with a relaxed mind and body