Do you breathe normally or do you breathe mindfully? When I asked my friend this question, she said “Do we have to apply our mind to breathe?” When I said “Yes” she had a puzzled look on her face and asked me “What is mindful breathing?”.
She further enquired, isn’t “Normal Breathing” and “Mindful Breathing” the same? Applying our mind to breathe seems illogical as breathing anyways happens automatically.
Do you share similar ideas or views as my friend?
If you answered “Yes” then just like my friend, today you will discover a skill that you can apply to your daily life not only to breathe more mindfully but also to artfully deal with challenging situations in life.
You must have heard the word “Mindfulness”. Most people these days are raving about daily mindfulness and its remarkable benefits…but how many of them are religiously practicing mindfulness and experiencing the extraordinary benefits? Do you practice mindfulness on a daily basis? Be honest.
In simple words, mindfulness is the capacity to be fully engaged in the present moment. If you wish to see LIVE example of mindfulness, see any child – their curiosity, attentiveness, awareness in the given moment is truly amazing. Unfortunately, as we get older we tend to lose this capacity as we often get lost in thinking about the past or planning the future.
Mindful breathing is a powerful practice to regain our lost capacity of being fully present, aware of where we are and what we are doing by simply focusing your attention on your breathing. So your breath serves as an anchor to learn this basic human ability, which you already possess and have forgotten how to access it.
Why Is Mindful Breathing Important
Today the common problem you, me, and the majority of people around the world are facing is a “distracted mind”. By the end of the day do you remember exactly what all you did during the day?
If you don’t remember…don’t worry, as you are not alone there was a study conducted by Harvard, wherein they found that approximately 47% of people in their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing.
Did you know that mind wandering during the day makes people unhappy? An average person has about 60,000 to 80,000 thoughts during the day – This sounds incredible however the sad part is majority thoughts are negative and repetitive in nature. This stream of worrying & anxious thoughts without any break hampers creativity and concentration.
Can you stop or reduce the stream of thoughts running in your mind?
The answer is “Yes” – As the stream of thoughts slow down in your mind, you will be able to focus your mind on what you are doing, your concentration improves, you are less distracted, your productivity improves. Are you noticing a chain of positive outcomes here…your mind simply becomes more efficient and useful.
Wondering how to reduce the mental noise, I will share the technique with you soon but before that let us understand this connection.
What Is The Connection Between Your Breath & Your Mind
Your breath and mind have a very close connection. Your breathing pattern can tell a lot about your current state of mind. If your flow of breath is erratic, so are your thoughts.
Your breath acts as a barometer of how you are feeling and by simply understanding this connection you can consciously change the way you breathe and the way you feel.
Have you noticed how you breathe during the moment of stress or when you are under pressure? There is tightness in the chest area, due to which your breathing is restricted or shallow. This has a direct influence on your mind due to which you are unable to think through clearly during challenging situations.
The focus is usually on positive self-talk however we are forgetting that all ‘thinking’ stems from the way we breathe. If your breathing is stagnant, fast then how can your thoughts be solution-oriented? This is why it is vital to pay attention to your breath first and calm your nervous system. When the breath is slow, smooth, long, and deep then the mind is also the same. When you take charge of your breathing pattern, you are in some sense are taking charge of your thoughts as your mind and breath are irrevocably linked.
So next time you find yourself stressed or you find situations around you go out of control – At such helpless times, remember “You can always control your breath and by regulating your breath you can control your state of mind”. With this understanding let us now discover the practice of mindful breathing and make it a part of your daily routine.
How To Practice Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is one of the best ways to practice and train your mind to focus on one thing – Your Breath. The main objective of this practice is to simply notice and be aware of your breath. It is not about relaxation or stress reduction.
However, practicing mindful breathing on a daily basis has helped many to manage stressful situations, dealing with negative emotions, and sharpening their concentration skills.
To begin with, you need only five minutes to practice this technique and can be done anywhere. The more you practice this, preferably doing it regularly in the mornings or before going to bed in the nights is strongly recommended.
Find a comfortable position sitting with a straight back on a chair or on a cushion on the floor and allow your body to relax. The hands can rest gently in the lap. You can close your eyes, however, if you fall asleep then I suggest keep them open and simply gaze on the wall in front of you.
Setting An Intention:
As you settle down simply become aware of the fact that you are breathing. Set an intention – Say in your mind: For the next five minutes I will feel my breath, I shall be aware of it and notice the breath flowing in and flowing out.
CORE Practice – Noticing The Breath
Allow yourself to be with the flow of breath and notice the entire cycle of breath:
- Feel the movement of air coming in through the nostrils;
- As it enters the nose, feel the expansion of the chest, as it fills the lungs and the extension of the abdomen.
- Then comes the stopping point, where there is neither in-breath nor out-breath
- As the air makes the journey out of the body, feel the flattening of the abdomen and collapse of the chest.
- Feel the movement of air coming out through the nostrils
This is one cycle of breath in complete awareness – Try This… Right NOW
Thoughts Are Distracting Me
Yes I know this….after a short time, you may notice your mind may wander into thoughts of the day, things you need to do, memories, fantasies, planning of the future – As soon as you become aware that your attention is drifted, bring it back to your breath.
You do not have to be hard on yourself and be upset that you are getting distracted by thoughts. As this happens to everyone who begins to practice mindful breathing. Always remind yourself that you are training your mind to be in the present moment by paying attention to the breath.
Simply notice your breath and watch the thoughts arising, do not judge them, acknowledge them, and bring your awareness to the physical sensations of the breath.
End The Practice
In about 5 minutes you can end this practice. Set a timer in the beginning so that you do not have to keep checking the time. As you end the practice, slowly allow your attention to expand and notice the surroundings around you. Be thankful for the moment and remember that the breath is always with you as a refocusing tool to bring you back to the present moment.
Isn’t that Simple Practice? Go ahead and start doing it from today, keep me posted if you have any further questions in the comments below.
Explore The Power of Awareness with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach – A transformative mindfulness training program that gives you a system you can use for your own personal growth and transformation.