We take 20,000 breaths a day, including while we are asleep.
How many of those are you conscious of? We don’t need to be conscious of each of those breaths.
This is the wonder of the body. It breathes and digests for us and keeps the heart beating while we attend to our lives.
Mindful breathing is a very basic yet powerful mindfulness meditation practice. The idea is simply to focus your attention on your breathing—to its natural rhythm and flow and the way it feels on each inhale and exhale. Focusing on the breath is particularly helpful because it serves as an anchor–something you can turn your attention to at any time if you start to feel stressed or carried away by negative emotions.
Relationship Between Mindfulness and Breathing
Coupling mindfulness and breathing techniques involves cultivating awareness of your experience in the present moment, living each moment as fully as possible.
From a practical point of view, you may ask how this works.
The breath is the life force. Breathing gives us life; as we inhale, it brings oxygen to cells; when we exhale, we release waste products in the form of carbon dioxide. Different types of breathing affect our body differently; for example, rhythmic breathing balances the nervous system.
A Look at Mindful Breathing Meditation
This form of meditation is often coupled with other types of therapy such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy, and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Practicing mindful breathing is gently focusing attention on the breath. You begin noticing the breath coming in and going out. You are not trying to change your breathing in any way, and because of this, there are no expectations; you are merely aware of the breath from moment to moment.
This form of meditation practice involves paying close attention to the present moment – especially our thoughts, sensations, and emotions – whatever it is that’s happening.
Mindful breathing can give you a greater sense of control; increased self-awareness; a greater sense of calm, peace, and happiness; and greater resilience in stressful times .
Providing pain relief
Alongside mindful breathing, Zeidan and Vago (2016) found that mindfulness meditation could be effective in reducing the level of pain intensity. It should be further researched as an alternative to opioids in people with chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia, migraines, and lower back pain.
The Smith Center for Healing and the Arts (n.d.), which provides cancer support, recommends mindful breathing for clients who are undergoing treatments at their facility. Their clients find that the benefits of mindful breathing meditation can reduce symptoms, as it relieves pain and has fewer side effects than chemotherapy, including less nausea, fatigue, anxiety, and increased immune system functioning.
You don’t have to be undergoing treatment to access the benefits of this form of meditation.
Helps in reduction of anxiety
Mindful breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is your body’s “rest and digest” system. When the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, your heart rate and blood pressure lowers, which can help reduce anxiety in the process .
Decrease in negative thinking
Practicing mindful breathing can decrease negative automatic thoughts, which can be common in people with depression. Mindful breathing can make way for a better mood.
Mindful Breathing Exercises
Using breathing techniques is an excellent way to control when you feel anxious or stressed.
You can practice mindful breathing first thing in the morning when you wake up to relieve muscle stiffness and back tension, or clear clogged breathing passages.
Another exercise you could try is belly breathing. This is achieved by placing one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Inhale, filling your belly with air, and pushing your hand out.
Allow your breath to fill your lungs, pushing your other hand out. Finally, slowly exhale. You also could choose to hold the inhalation for a count of four.