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First, I’ll ask that you humor me a bit…Take a nice deep breath in....and a nice big cleansing exhale....And one more. Now, think to yourself, “When was the last time I did that?” Was it today? Yesterday? Within the last week? And I’m not talking about the big exhale made in frustration that comes out sounding like a horse (I do that a lot!), but that doesn’t usually include that inhaling part. I’m talking about mindfully focusing on the breath and consciously breathing. The more I learn about mental health maintenance, the more I see the foundation of many tools begins with the breath. Meditation, yoga, anxiety management, stress and tension relief: the foundation is the breath.
In today’s increasingly busy world it is easy to take breathing for granted. Luckily, our bodies will continue doing it for us; otherwise, we would probably be in trouble! But just letting our bodies keep us breathing is not enough. Breath is our life force, and we need it to live. Mindful breathing is one of the easiest (and most useful) methods for reducing stress and anxiety, and it can be done anywhere without a lot of effort.
Take one more nice deep breath in....and a nice big exhale....now notice the feeling right after. Is it better that right before that breath? Conscious breathing can take us from a place of instant reaction to a place of contemplation and action based upon thought. That instant reaction is often fueled by emotion; whereas, when sitting behind the emotion, we can be thoughtful about our actions and take a more mindful approach. I encourage us all to be more mindful of our breath and to breathe consciously at least a few times a day. Maybe when you first wake up you take a few nice deep breaths, or on your way to work, before the meeting you need to go to, or right after, when your making dinner, or right before bed. It literally can be done anywhere and anytime. It is especially useful when we are feeling anxious and tense. It is probably the most effective tool I have found for better health all around, so I encourage you to put it in your mental toolbox and remember it the next time you can use some relief. Happy (and mindful) Breathing!