Written by Tara Shafrath (former SDSU Extension Health & Physical Activity Field Specialist).
Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness of each present moment. When we are living in the present moment, we are able to acknowledge all the sensations of the body. We are also able to notice our thoughts and feelings as we go throughout our day. Mindfulness is becoming a well-known topic among researchers and a buzz word in the mainstream public.
NIH conducted a study on the effects of mindfulness on psychological health and found that mindfulness leads to a high state of well-being and lower symptoms of emotional reactivity. Additional benefits of practicing mindfulness include decreased stress, anxiety, increased brain function, awareness, attention, clarity, and even recovery time. Paying attention to our breath is the first step on the path of living a more mindful life.
Our breath can tell us a lot about our current internal, emotional state. Take a second and notice, are you breathing fast and shallow or are your breaths calm and deep? If we can notice this, we are aware of how different situations affect our state of mind. To practice this awareness, notice on your inhale the expansion of the lungs raising your chest. Notice on the exhale, as your chest deflates and again, prepares for another breath.
Tips for practicing mindfulness with the breath:
- Being aware of how you are breathing in certain situations.
- If you are breathing fast, work towards controlling it and slowing it down. Let each exhale be slightly longer than the inhale. This small technique is known to calm your central nervous system.
- Inhale through your nose, exhale through your nose
- If you are having a hard time catching your breath, inhale through your nose, gently open your mouth for a slow exhale.
- Notice the slight pause in between the inhale and the exhale. This will bring more awareness to the pace of your breath.
Living in the present moment allows us to fully appreciate ourselves and our surroundings. We are able to have a more clear and understanding mind. Practicing mindfulness through our breath will allow us to take notice of our emotions and what triggers us feel a certain way. When we live in this place of mindfulness, we experience less stress, anxiety, and lack of understanding. Rather, we live life in a higher state of being filled with more awareness, clarity, and happiness.