Motivational Monday: Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation

The Morning Show

CHAMPAIGN–

Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation
 
 
Breathing is something that we don’t have to think about, but if we are not breathing, we will immediately think about it. 

But did you know that you can control your breathing and influence your emotional state?
 
Every time you inhale, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your pupils dilate, digestion slows down to conserve energy, and muscles tense to get ready to run or defend. 

Think about how you breathe when you are startled, a quick inhale. That allows your body to react to danger in order to survive. Every time you exhale, your heart rate and blood pressure decrease, digestion speeds up, and muscles relax.
 
If you feel anxious, angry, irritable, or “keyed up”, and that becomes a daily state of being, it is most likely that your breathing patterns will become habitually anxious and you will experience more muscle tension, digestive issues, and headaches. 

Anxious breathing is called “chest breathing” because you are not expanding your lungs downward to take in a full breath. That type of breathing is great when you are in danger and need to run or fight for your life, but when it becomes habitual, then it can cause symptoms like anxiety.
 
Mindfulness of the Breath Meditation
 
A daily practice of deep breathing, no matter the type, improves your ability to manage your anger, as well as, reduce stress, anxiety, and inflammation by activating your parasympathetic nervous system. Mindful breathing is a way to gain the most benefit from deep breathing exercises. 

The definition of mindfulness is “paying attention, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.” Many people understand the definition of mindfulness, up until the term “without judgment”. 

Here is how you practice mindful breathing, start with just one complete breath cycle, and as you breathe think, “breathing in, breathing out…”. That is “being mindful” because you are paying attention to your breathing, in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and working towards the “without judgment” part. 

Practice the non-judgmental part of mindfulness by noticing judgmental thoughts that come up during the mindfulness activity, and label them in your mind as “judging”. Then direct your attention back to your breath.
 
There are many types of breathing exercises. It isn’t as important which type of deep, or controlled breathing exercise you choose to start with, but that you choose one that you are able to do with some ease. If you practice this every day, any time you can remember to do it, it will become much easier and you will be able to slow down enough to practice some of the coping skills that you may have learned in counseling.
 
If you have trouble with taking a slow, deep breath, here are some helpful tips:
1.     Stretch your torso to release muscle tension around the lungs and abdomen.
2.     Lie on your back and place a book, pillow, or if you have children, a stuffed animal or rubber duckie, on your belly and make it go up and down with your breathing.
3.     Place one hand on your chest and one on your belly.
4.     Slightly close the throat to make a wind tunnel (helps slow it down).
5.     Sit up straight to give your lungs room to expand, but stay fairly relaxed.
6.     Try placing your hands on top of your head.
7.     Notice the way the breath moves the body instead of making your body move with your breath.
8.     Allow the breath to slow down and deepen, don’t force it.

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