I preach a whole lot about slowing down, being mindful, and taking a breath. It dawned on me this morning how pointless it is to continually write about this if my readers aren’t practicing these things too. I wasn’t born with the innate ability to breathe in a mindful way. Calming my body has been a LEARNED skill, taught to me by my therapist or my own research. If you haven’t been exposed to this, you might not know where to start, so let me help you.
The very first step (in my opinion) is learning how to breathe mindfully. Slowing your breathing will lower your heart rate and blood pressure in a moment of high anxiety. In turn, your body will decrease the amount of adrenaline and cortisol it is releasing. You will be able to calm your body down naturally.
I use this method in both moments of high emotions, like when I’m overwhelmed, and also at the beginning of my meditative sessions. I find this type of breathing gives me the opportunity to connect with my internal self, and step away from the stresses of the outside world.
This exercise is portable. You can use it anywhere, any time as a coping mechanism. That’s what makes it so great! While learning this technique, I find it best to find a quiet spot where you can focus on yourself without distraction. Olympic athletes do not learn their skills during competition time, it takes years of practice in a private gym. The same philosophy should be applied to your mental health skills. Learn them in times when you DON’T need them. Practice your skills routinely, then they will be perfect and helpful during “competition time” or for our purpose, moments where you need to calm your body in the real world.
Learning calming breathing is quick, and easy! Let’s start now!
Sit in a chair. Square your body off so your shoulders are over your hips, and your feet are side by side, grounded on the floor. Place your hands where they are comfortable, for me I rest them on my thighs.
Close your eyes.
Start to become aware of your breathing, without trying to change it. Focus on the air coming in, and try to mentally map it’s route. It comes from outside your body, it enters through your nose or mouth. Follow it down into your lungs, and feel your chest expand. Repeat the awareness a few times. Are you breathing quickly? Does the air make it all the way into your chest? Are you expanding your lungs to their full extent?
You’ll notice quickly that your breaths will naturally slow and become deeper, even without trying to change it. Take note of your body sensations. When you’re relaxed, how do the muscles feel in your back and shoulders? What is your core body language? Do you feel the heaviness and grounding in your feet? These will become your baseline goals for calming in the real world.
This is mindfulness.
Shutting out the world for a moment and focusing on what’s happening right now is the definition of mindfulness. When you are able to just focus on the breathing that is happening now, without trying to change anything, you are thinking about this exact moment as it happens; not future breaths, not previous breaths. Just this breath.
I encourage you to practice breathing regularly. Try to pick a time that you could make routine. Is it the few moments in the morning that you’re waiting for the shower water to heat up? Is it the last moment before you sleep, sitting on your bed and preparing to relax for a restful night? How about in the car, when you first sit down after a long day of work. You haven’t picked the kids up from daycare yet, and you are completely alone.
Mindful breathing doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to take up a lot of time. It’s an incredibly useful tool, it’s free, and it’s portable.
My writing is coming to a close. You’ve been able to take the time to stop and read, can you take another moment to stop and breathe? There’s no time like the present to start.
Wishing you luck, love, and calm.
With healthy hearts,
Kate and the Kids.