We often hear about being mindful. Have you taken time lately to be mindful? Mindfulness defined is a mental state achieved by focusing our awareness on the present moment. I have to work at mindfulness. I stay busy with a full-time job and a full-time home life with two teenagers and a dog. It’s easy to just do the chore and not think. It’s easy to just eat the food and not think. It’s even easy to just do the exercise routine and not think about it. It’s also easy to breathe without considering the breath.
Going through life without living in the moment can be stressful. Sometimes we need to stop and take a breath. In fact, breathing exercises are very good at helping to relieve our stress, helping us to think clearer, and feel better. Here’s a mindful breathing technique you can try, courtesy of the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Find a quiet, comfortable place to lie down, sit or stand. Position yourself so your body and brain have the least amount of work to do to keep you alert and upright.
Clear out the distraction around you by closing your eyes. Place one hand on the center of your chest and one hand just above your belly button.
Close your mouth and breathe through your nose. Breathing through your nose helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system helps our body to rest and even digest and it works better with slow, controlled, mindful breathing.
Take a deep breath in through your nose and breathe in for a four-count. Focus on your belly expanding against your hand with your chest rising only a little after the belly has fully expanded. Try not to raise your shoulders or allow any tension in the body.
Breathe out through either the nose or the mouth for another four-count. Continue this breathing tempo for 60 seconds. Try to focus on the sound of air coming into your nose and out of your mouth/nose.
You may need to use this technique before a meeting, prior to a stressful event, while getting your blood pressure taken (especially if you get anxious at the doctor’s office), or while giving blood at the blood bank (I often do mindful breathing exercises before, during and after giving blood since I’m not a fan of needles).
Incorporate mindful breathing into your day and maybe this mindfulness will carry over into your work, exercise, home and eating activities. Here’s to your great health.
Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the March 15, 2018 edition of the Seaford Star.