Developing breath awareness, and learning to breathe properly, is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental and physical health. As Donna Farhi, author of The Breathing Book says, “The unconsciously altered breath allows us to survive, but it does not allow us to thrive.”
This brief and gentle mindful breathing exercise can help you create a relaxation response in your body in as little as 5 minutes:
Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair, on the floor, or on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Have your hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Close your eyes, if that feels comfortable for you, and just allow your breath to be natural.
Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, and out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. It doesn't need to be long or short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It may be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.
As you tune into your breath, you may find that your mind wanders- distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought. Gently return to your breath.
You don't have 5 minutes?
When trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment and there is not much time to spare, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Just this simple action can activate your relaxation response.