If you haven't already, you can read my previous post, Mindfulness 101, to learn about what mindfulness is and the benefits of practicing mindfulness.
After learning about mindfulness, many people are intrigued, but concerned about finding the time to develop a daily mindfulness practice. There are tremendous benefits to setting aside 30-60 minutes a day for guided mindfulness meditations; however, if this seems overwhelming or unrealistic for you, there are many other ways to build mindfulness into your life, even by devoting just a few minutes at a time to your mindfulness practice.
It is for this reason that I am starting the Monday Dose of Mindfulness series, which will be dedicated to providing short mindfulness exercises that can easily be incorporated into your daily life. My hope is to include a wide range of exercises in this series, including: mindful eating, mindful movement, short mediations, and other various ways to shift attention to external and/or internal aspects of the present moment.
Today, I will be discussing mindful breathing, which involves focusing your attention on sensations in the body associated with the breath. By purposefully placing attention on your breathing, you shift attention away from other stimuli, including thoughts about the past or future. Thinking about the future often evokes stress and anxiety, while thinking about the past is often associated with sadness and depression. For these reasons, practicing mindful breathing tends to decrease emotional distress.
Mindful breathing may also be especially beneficial to practice before bed if thoughts often keep you up at night, as it helps to quite the mind and calm the body. Mindful breathing can be practiced anywhere and for any length of time, although a duration of at least 3-5 minutes is typically recommended.
Mindful Breathing Instructions:
Note: Read slowly and take pauses between sentences. You may find it helpful to make a recording of yourself reading the script below aloud. That way, you can practice mindful breathing meditation with your eyes closed while listening to the recording.
Sit in a comfortable position. Tune into the sensations in the body as you continue to breathe. Do not try to change the breath, but simply observe it. Notice whether movement is more prominent in your chest or your stomach. Observe the rise and fall of your chest, or how the stomach expands and retracts, as you inhale and exhale. Feel the natural flow of the breath as air moves in and out of the body. If your attention starts to wander at any point, that's ok, just notice it and -- without judgment -- just try to drop back in to the physical sensations of the body as you breathe. Now begin to shift your attention to your shoulders and notice any subtle rise and fall as you breathe in and out. Perhaps you choose to shift attention to the nostrils and observe the sensation as the air moves in and out with each inhale and exhale. Continue to focus attention on your breath for another minute or two, or however long you choose. Remember that if your mind wanders at any time, this is natural, so simply note it without judgment, and refocus your attention on the breath.
When you are ready to end the practice, slowly open your eyes and notice any changes in your body or mind.
Remember to check back for more mindfulness exercises on future Mondays!