We take about 22,000 breaths each day. What would happen if we took a few of those breaths on purpose?
As we move into late fall and have the holidays looming in front of us, it’s easy to get stressed out. Young people are also facing stressful situations this time of year. Most teens are looking at the end of 1st semester around Christmas time which means final exams and large projects. They may also be transitioning between fall and winter sports.
Practicing mindfulness is one way to “smell the roses” and enjoy the journey. I really like Jon Kabat- Zinn’s definition of mindfulness Paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally. Nice right? There are countless ways to practice mindfulness in our daily lives. Today I am going to share a mindful breathing exercise with you.
Mindfulness helps us get our mind and body into the same place at the same time. Just a couple minutes a day of mindful breathing can help calm your nervous system, clear your mind and allow you to focus on what you are doing.
When you are doing a mindful breathing exercise you should be breathing deep into your lungs using your diaphragm. Think about having a balloon in your belly and filling it as you breathe in. If you place your hand on your stomach you should feel in move out as you breathe in and back down as you exhale. This is probably different than your normal breathing.
- Sit comfortably with your back straight and your feet on the floor.
- Either close your eyes or allow them to look softly (unfocused) at something.
- Take a slow inhale in through your nose. Allow your lungs to fill completely.
- Hold that breath for just a moment and slowly exhale letting all the air come out of your lungs. Try to match the length of your inhale and exhale.
- As you are breathing focus your mind only on the breath. If thoughts or feelings wander into your head (and believe me, they will) just notice them and bring your attention back to your breath.
Start out by trying this exercise for 5 – 10 breaths, every day is best. You can do this at work, school, home …. almost anywhere. As you get more comfortable with the exercise slowly work to increase your time.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you have difficulty focusing on your breath at first. It takes practice. This exercise can be highly individualized so do whatever works best for you.
I hope you and your teen enjoy the rest of the year. When things get stressful, remember to take a couple deep breaths … on purpose.
If you want to learn more about mindfulness here is a great website: Greater Good, The Science of a Meaningful Life.