In our busy modern world, where there is so much to think about and always too much to do, finding ways to calm the body and the mind, quickly, can be extremely helpful. The simple art of managing your breathing is more powerful than most people realise and can have profound effects on the way you think, feel and function in a short space of time.
Your breath is a form of communication with your nervous system and, effectively, tells your brain whether the world around you is safe, or if you are in some kind of danger. Short, shallow breathing is what would kick the brain’s ‘fight or flight’ response a tiger is approaching or you’re under attack. This was useful in our prehistoric state, butin modern times, this way of breathing also kicks in when our inbox is overloaded, and our lives are too busy.
Slow, deep, mindful breathing, on the other hand, communicates to your brain that you are safe, that adrenaline isn’t needed in bucket loads and that your brain is safe to focus on other things such as thinking clearly, working calming and having creative thoughts.
This month your challenge is to become aware of the way you breathe and practice techniques that help slow your breathing down if you find yourself in a stressful situation. Aim to spend at least 5 minutes a day (or more) consciously focusing on your breathing. This can be all in one go, or more regularly throughout the day.
Make it happen
Here are some ideas of how to help build mindful breathing into your day:
1. Practise diaphragmatic breathing
Step one: Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. With your mouth closed, slowly take a deep breath in through your nose and allow your lungs to fill with air. If it helps, slowly count to four when you do this.
Step two: Allow your abdomen to expand as you are breathing in, your belly should start to push out and your chest stays still.
Step three: Exhale through your mouth and allow your abdomen to come back inward, count slowly to five or six to ensure you fully exhaling.
Repeat 5 – 20 times.
2. Create prompts
Put sticky dots up around your home everywhere from on your bathroom mirror, to by the kettle and in your home office. Also, put one in your car too! Every time you see one of the dots take 10 slow deep breaths when they see one. For your staff who are working from home, suggest they do the same in their home offices.
3. Use an app
Why not download one of the many breathing apps or to start using the one you already have on your phone or watch. Take a Breath, Waking Up, iBreathe, Breathe+, Apple Watch Breathe and Calm are some ideas.
4. Track it
Use our tracking sheet if it helps you remember to do it daily.
5. Tune in
Tune into these mindfulness practices thanks to Adam Corke:
- Podcast: Dispelling myths about mindfulness
- 3-minute breathing space, a mindfulness practice
- Mindfulness practice: Take 5 finding your centre of balance
After discovering meditation in his early 20s and having sustained significant sports injuries, Adam joined the New Zealand Police. He wanted to be part of a helping profession and help alleviate suffering in our communities. Adam spent most of his career as a detective and served for over 17 years. He also became an accomplished paraglider pilot and, later, a husband and a father of two. By exposing himself to these challenging situations, Adam learned more about himself and how to respond to the inevitable personal challenges he experienced throughout his career.
Adam is a trained mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) teacher. He intends to make mindfulness accessible to the mainstream, applying it to real-life experiences and, ultimately, helping people to live healthy and fulfilling lives. Adam also would like to dispel myths that mindfulness involves sitting in uncomfortable positions, burning incense, and doesn’t relate to most people. His message is that everybody experiences stress, but there are ways we can ease our experiences of it. Please join us as Adam talks about being introduced to mindfulness and how he has applied it in a practical and relevant way.