An old version of “mindful breathing” is the count to ten method. Instead of responding negatively to someone, yelling at the kids, or losing your mind at work, you stop and count to ten. Believe it or not, this is a breathing technique! The purpose of stopping in-the-moment and waiting to respond is to slow your breathing and clear your mind. If you’ve ever tried this trick, you’re already a mindfulness pro! But there are so many more techniques out there that can work for you. Here are a few to try.
- Counting Breaths: It may sound silly but count every time you fully inhale and exhale. First, it takes your mind off everything else around you. Secondly, focusing on your breathing helps you slow it down. This is an easy trick to get you grounded in a moment of conflict.
- Counting the Duration of Inhalations/Exhalations: Sometimes we get lost counting breaths, and that’s okay! A deeper way to focus on your breathing is to count the seconds of inhalation and exhalation. To slow your breathing, exhale for a longer duration than you inhaled. For example, breathe in for four seconds and release the breath for six seconds. Then, try extending the inhalation to five seconds and the exhalation to seven. You’ll be surprised how quickly your breathing slows and your mind clears.
- 4, 5, 7 Breathing: 4, 5, 7 breathing extends the concept of duration breathing. You breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for five seconds, and release the breath for seven seconds. The goal is to get your mind focused, your breathing steady, and your body calm. Do this at least ten times for optimal results.
In-the-moment techniques are important. They can help us deescalate a situation and ensure we don’t do or say anything out of anger or fear, but a good breathing practice extends far beyond the confines of a moment of conflict. To cultivate a breathing practice, you have to carve out space in your day to sit and breathe. Just like lifting weights, breathing techniques take time and practice. The more you practice, the easier it gets in the same way you can up your weights with consistent effort.
Pick a time once a day—morning, noon, or night—and sit in a quiet space. You can choose to try one of the breathing options listed above or simply sit and breathe in silence. Think about how cool the breath is as it comes into your nose and how warm the breath is as it is released. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t want to go without this self-care time. Create a routine that works for you and stick with it.
Can Breathing Really Help Me?
No one is above the concept of breathing. It’s something our bodies naturally do for us; we literally don’t have to think about it! But just like we focus on making healthy choices about what we put into our bodies, such as food and substance, breathing should be looked at in the same way.
Try the 10-day challenge. Practice breathing every morning and every night for five minutes, and watch your mood and energy begin to shift into peace and gratitude. If that feels too stressful to manage at this time, pick one time each day—maybe lunch at work or in the shower—and practice breathing for ten days straight. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. Change up your life. Slow down, sit down, and simply breathe.
You may tell yourself you breathe every day, so why should you focus on this natural occurrence? If you are someone who struggles with substance and or mental health issues, breathing is a game-changer, but it’s not an easy practice when we are starting out in recovery.
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