The Benefits of Mindful Breathing

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Many people feel constant stress from work, money problems, or family duties. It's easy to worry about the past and future rather than living fully in the present moment. Practicing mindfulness – purposefully paying non-judgmental attention to what's happening right now – can help handle mounting stress. 

Mindful breathing means focusing completely on the act of breathing itself, without judgment or expectations. As we’ll see, by tuning into the physical feelings of inhaling and exhaling, many good things can happen - from less anxiety and better concentration to more connection with your body and emotions. Most of all, mindful breathing wakes you up to the present, experiencing life one breath at a time.

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Understanding Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing means keeping your attention glued to your inhales and exhales, consciously following the air moving through your body. Thoughts, feelings, and sounds will keep popping up. The goal is to notice them come and go without getting carried away. Though it seems simple, there’s an elegance in resting your awareness on your breathing’s rhythm.

Usually, our minds replay the past or preview the future. Mindful breathing helps cut off dwelling on what’s not real - the past or future. When you tune into your breath, you tune into this moment, into life unfolding in each new inhale and exhale.

As we focus on our breath, we can take our minds off of what worries us. This helps us to calm our thoughts and nervous system by bringing the vagus nerve on board. The vagus nerve, also known as the vagal nerves, are the main nerves of your parasympathetic nervous system, which controls specific body functions such as your digestion, heart rate, and immune system. Over time, focusing on our breath can help lower knee-jerk reactions, sharpen perception, and allow wiser responses based on actual needs and values.

The Power of Paying Attention to Your Senses

Intently focusing on physical sensations happening inside and around you as you track your breathing helps anchor attention in the present.

Take in what you hear, see, smell, or touch at the same time, all while breathing mindfully. Crisp morning air filling your lungs, birds singing, warm sunlight on your cheeks – these sensory experiences combine with breathing awareness to glue you to the “now."

It’s best to pick one sense – maybe your wrist brushing your shirt – as the anchor point. Return attention there if it moves too far from your breath. This body-mind tether keeps you focused on the present while quieting mental noise.

Practical Techniques for Mindful Breathing

You might think it’s necessary to have a peaceful and calm environment to focus on mindful breathing, but this isn’t always the case. Mindful breathing can be done anywhere – even in hectic environments! No matter where you are, you can focus inward on your breath and feel the calm wash over you following the techniques below: 

- Get comfortable: Sit up straight, feet flat (if seated), core engaged, shoulders relaxed.
- Choose an anchor: Gently touch hands or focus on breath sensations.
- Observe your breath: Notice natural inhales and exhales without controlling them.
- Gentle redirect: If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to your anchor, then to your breath.
- Start small: Practice for 5-10 minutes daily, gradually increasing to 20 minutes.
- Observe thoughts and feelings: Name them without judgment and return to your breath.

One of the ways that you can reap the benefits of mindful breathing is by following a methodical breathing rhythm. Inhale through your nose for two to five seconds, and relax your pelvic floor muscles. This allows for your diaphragm to drop, creating space for this breath. Exhale slowly through your mouth for between five to 12 seconds to allow your breath to escape. Focus on collecting your pelvic floor muscles upward as you exhale, bringing your belly back toward your spine with gentle strength. 

This simple breathing exercise can help you stay focused on your breath and mindfully aware of the calm washing over you.

How Mindful Breathing Helps You

Research confirms mindful breathing improves concentration, emotional control, resilience, immune response, and more when done routinely.

It calms the threat response fueled by anxiety and worry, lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and inflammation. As your nervous system relaxes into an awake yet serene state, new neural pathways develop for handling emotions wisely, short-circuiting reactive habits.

Studies also show mindful breathing boosts working memory, reading comprehension, and focus on tasks even when anxious. Participants report better mood, life satisfaction, vitality, and self-worth – directly linked to well-being.

Moving Past Roadblocks

Despite real rewards, making mindful breathing a habit takes dedication as common obstacles arise. Restlessness, frustration, self-judgment, or feeling it’s unproductive can sabotage practice. Here’s how to overcome such hurdles:

Remember, mindful breathing is simple but rarely easy initially – be willing to stumble. Any moment you can recenter is a win. If anxious, gently open your eyes until you are ready to continue. Refocusing first on your senses before your breath may feel more stabilizing.

Rather than another stress-inducing checklist item, integrate mindful breathing naturally all day – while stuck in traffic, sitting at your desk, or on a lunch break. Even 60-90 seconds here and there builds present-moment awareness. Make mindfulness fit your lifestyle.

Lower Stress and Improve Health with Mindful Breathing

While seemingly basic on the surface, mindful breathing offers a meaningful portal to appreciate beauty and truth by lighting up the present. By returning attention repeatedly to your breathing and senses anchoring you here and now, you ease suffering by fully living each moment as it unfolds.

Beyond lowering stress and improving health, mindful breathing supplies courage, empathy, emotional skills, and clear insight to advance personal goals or help others. 

Turn your home into one where the environment is one of calm, safety, and assurance for an anxious child. BLOOM is here to help – we’ve crafted unique online courses to meet your needs, wherever your family is at. Learn more about our accessible online courses here.

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