Its Monday morning. Perhaps you took some time out on Sunday to prepare and get yourself ready for the week, but you didn’t anticipate your child waking up, or your dog getting sick, or the beeping of the low battery smoke alarm. Its Monday morning and although you planned to have an easy start, life seems to be flooding and taking over. Perhaps you wake up dreading that the work week is starting all over again; your brain races to that meeting, or that phone call or that deadline. The thoughts are swirling; you haven’t left your house yet.
Stop. Breathe in. Breathe out.
You’ve been sleeping, driving, eating, reading, working, simply going about your day, but how often do you pause and notice your breath? According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a respiratory control center at the base of your brain controls your breathing sending ongoing signals down your spine and to the muscles involved in breathing. These signals ensure your breathing muscles contract (tighten) and relax regularly. This allows your breathing to happen automatically, without you being aware of it. It’s a good thing you haven’t had to consciously think about your breath; your brain allows you to live your life while it handles the very important job of keeping you alive. By taking some simple conscious breaths however, you will be able to calm the race in your head and ease through the many transitions of life.
Conscious breathing is very simple. Exhale all the air you have and allow your body to naturally ask you to inhale. As you inhale, think, “I am breathing IN.” Then as you exhale, think, “I am breathing OUT.” That’s it! Inhale and exhale eight times and notice your body and mind ease with each breath. You may simply want to think, “IN,” and, “OUT.” You may only do it for three or four breaths. It’s ok. This can be done in the car driving to or from work, it can be done at your computer or before making a call. The beauty of conscious breathing is that it can be done almost anywhere at any time.
Various breathing techniques have been practiced for thousands of years. According to Zen Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, “Our breathing is the link between our body and our mind. By concentrating on our breathing, we bring body and mind back together.”
Science has also proven the importance and benefits to conscious breathing. One study, BREATHE: a one -day retreat to reduce burnout among mental health professionals, found that six weeks after a day-long training, staff reported significant decreases in emotional exhaustion and depersonalization and significant increases in positive views toward consumers. The study concluded that the brief intervention was feasible, acceptable to staff, and could improve burnout and staff attitudes. Another study, The Effect of Diaphragmatic Breathing on Attention, Negative Affect, and Stress in Healthy Adults, found significant decrease in negative affect, increased sustained attention, as well as a lower cortisol levels as compared to the control group.
Breathing is a beautiful, natural process that reminds us we are alive. Noticing your breath throughout the day will help you reset and move forward. So, continue browsing the internet, all the while, remembering to notice that friend that is with you until the end, your breath.