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  • Writer's pictureCaz

What does breathing mindfully do for the mind and body?

Updated: Jun 30, 2023

Take a deep breath. How does it feel?

Taking a slow mindful breath can help you feel instantly calmer
Smiling and feeling calmer after taking a few mindful breaths

My breath feels tight right now. To try and take a deep breath feels like pushing against a wall, that just won't shift. I am trying to let my lungs expand and drink in all the fresh oxygen but they feel squashed. I feel stressed. Being mindful of how our breath feels can tell us a lot about how we are feeling mentally and emotionally. If our breath is flowing freely, we are often feeling relaxed.

When the breath feels jagged, or stilted, or fast and shallow it can be a good indicator that we are in a state of stress or anxiety. We can use breathing techniques to slow our breath, calm our nervous system and in doing so feel more much relaxed and focused.

If you recognise you are feeling stressed, it might feel really unnatural but try to take a deep mindful breath. Most likely, it will feel uncomfortable; a bit like blowing into a balloon that won't inflate.

Try to take another two or three deep, expansive breaths and see if it begins to feel easier. Imagine sending the breath all the way to your belly, feeling the belly, ribs and chest fill with air. Focus on how it feels to let the breath go; can you feel your belly relax, perhaps your shoulders and jaw soften too. Notice how your body reacts to this new, bigger breath, flooding it with life and energy.

How to take a mindful breath to feel calmer

Bringing awareness to your breath is a great self-care tool (that is always with you!).

Take a deep breath now.

Notice how it feels. Notice how you feel.

What is your breath telling you?

Are you ready to go, or could you benefit from pausing for a moment and taking a few mindful breaths?

Breathe in through your nose for the count of 4, feeling the belly, ribs and chest expand. If it feels comfortable, perhaps hold that breath for a beat. Gently breathe out through your mouth, as if blowing through a straw, for the count of 6. Notice how your body feels as you slowly let the breath go.

Can you feel your muscles soften as you let go of tension you may not have realised you were holding on to.

Making your exhale longer than the inhale sends signals to your nervous system that you are safe, helping you to settle into a relaxed state.

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