For this blog, I wanted to share with you some simple, practical tips for mindful breathing. They require no special talents or equipment and be done by anyone, anywhere. Try one of these exercises when you’re stuck in traffic, waiting for the kettle to boil or in bed if your mind’s racing and you can’t get to sleep.
1. Feeling the breath in your body
I suggest sitting in a comfortable position for this exercise.
🫁 Take a deep breath in through your nose. Where do you feel it? Do you feel your tummy rising?
😮💨 Now exhale through your nose. What sensations in the body do you associate with breathing out? You may feel your tummy falling or feel the air against your top lip.
🛌 This activity can be adapted to help children relax when going to bed. Ask your child to lie on their back and sit a cuddly toy on their tummy. On taking a deep breath in through the nose, watch the toy rise. With a slow breath out through the mouth, watch the toy fall. (For more sleep tips, see our sleep better blog.)
2. Anchoring your attention on the breath
It can be difficult to keep your attention on your breath. This exercise can help you to stay focused.
🫁 Silently say ‘inhale’ as you breathe in
😮💨 Silently say ‘exhale’ as you breathe out
You can adapt this activity by counting 1 as you inhale, 2 as you exhale, 3 as you inhale, etc. till you get to 10 or your attention wanders. You can then start counting at 1 again.
This is a more advanced technique that can reduce a sense of panic. Count in your head whilst you’re breathing/holding.
🫁 Inhale (and continue from the start)
Vary the length of each section to find what works best for you. If you feel holding your breath for too long makes you feel uncomfortable, reduce the length of this section. Having an exhale longer than the inhale can help you feel relaxed. If you feel light-headed at any point during the exercise, return to breathing normally.
4. Notice patterns of breathing
“When we check our email, wait for messages to load, we unconsciously hold our breath. And this matters because… holding your breath is something you do in moments of anxiety.”
Can you notice other changes in your breathing pattern? We tend to take slower, deeper breaths when we experience positive emotions and faster, shallow breaths when we feel anxious or angry. Observe your breathing and consider what triggers and change in rate.