Mindfulness: A Calming Breathing Technique

By Wendy Quan

Did you know that voluntary, slow deep breathing changes your physiology in just a few minutes?

Breathing slowly and rhythmically can decrease your blood pressure and heart rate and calm you when you feel stressed or anxious.  A physiological shift happens. The relaxation response is invoked.

Each of us is unique in how we feel stress in our body. We might feel muscle tightness in our abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms, or experience sweaty palms, shallow breathing, an upset stomach or a long list of other symptoms.

The great news is that we can calm and relax ourselves if we learn to breathe smartly – and it only takes a few minutes.

Meditation is a great way to calm the body and mind, but let’s face it, we don’t always have time to sit and meditate. So why not learn this simple mindfulness technique that you can literally do any time of the day, whether you’re sitting at your computer, riding transit, waiting for a phone call or for a meeting to start.

Times when you are waiting for something is a wonderful opportunity to be mindful. Taking brief, intentional pauses throughout your day cultivates a mindful state of being. Pauses can be a few seconds or a few minutes.

Rhythmic breathing
Simply inhale and exhale deeper than your natural breath but in a rhythmic way. Relax your abdomen to really feel your body breathing. Make your inhalations and exhalations equal in length. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, a research psychiatrist at UCLA, has this great technique to help you get into a rhythm and stay focused.

What To Do
Take deep, slow, rhythmic breaths through your nostrils.

The first three digits remain constant, and the fourth digit increments by one, then starts over after #4.

Count silently to yourself:

  • On the inhalation, count “1, 2, 3, 1”
  • On the exhalation, count “1, 2, 3, 2”
  • On the inhalation, count “1, 2, 3, 3”
  • On the exhalation, count “1, 2, 3, 4”
  • On the inhalation, count “1, 2, 3, 1”
  • On the exhalation, count “1, 2, 3, 2”
  • And continue in this fashion.

Keep this up for two to five minutes.

If you lose track of your counting (and you likely will!), simply restart from the beginning.

This easy breathing exercise is fun to do. Just relax into it.

Important Benefits of This Practice
You will get these two main benefits:

  1. This will get and keep you in the present moment. This is being mindful.
  2. The rhythmic breaths invoke your body’s relaxation response, and you will likely feel the relaxing effect of this within a minute or two.

Watch a video of Dr. Schwartz to learn more about this practice.

I invite you to give this a try.  Why not right now?

Wendy Quan provides mindfulness meditation facilitator training and certification online courses which are available to CPHR BC & Yukon members at a preferred rate. Find out moreCPHR BC & Yukon discussed why mindfulness meditation facilitator training is an important offering to their members—watch brief videos here.

Wendy Quan, founder of The Calm Monkey, is an industry leader, helping organizations implement mindfulness meditation programs and combining change management techniques to create personal and organizational change resiliency. She trains meditators to become workplace facilitators.

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