We’re always trying to get away from the noise. The noise outside in the world, the noise inside our minds. The trauma of the past.
What am I going to make for dinner? Was that my phone? No, it wasn’t.
We’re always distracted. Always thinking. Always going. This pattern, which has become so commonplace, can lead to feelings of anxiety and even panic. That’s why it’s so important to regularly pause throughout the day, even if just for a moment, to reset and bring yourself back to the present.
Practicing mindful breathing can help you access the part of your nervous system that allows you to reduce stress and think more clearly, which will keep you safer and eliminate the overwhelmed feeling that often accompanies anxiety and panic.
With one breath, what many call a “relaxation breath,” you can trick your brain back into relaxation mode.
Here’s a simple three-minute exercise you can use no matter where you are.
- Sit or stand up nice and tall. Let your eyes relax. Relax your jaw. Let your shoulders relax down your back and start to focus your attention on your breath.
- Breathe all the way in through your nose, filling your belly with your breath. Then, breathe all the way out through your nose. It’s that simple.
- Start to breathe into a count of three. Inhale for one, two, three. Then, exhale into a count of six: six, five, four, three, two and one.
- Repeat. Inhale: one, two, three. Exhale: six, five, four, three, two and one.
- Continue just like this for three minutes, or as long as you'd like. You can set a timer on your phone at the beginning of your practice.
Should your mind wander, simply notice, without judgment. Observe your thought. And let it go. Return your breath to your attention as many times as it takes, training your mind in the same way we train our bodies.
You can practice with me by following along in the 360-degree virtual reality experience* below:
Whoever you are, wherever you are, you can use this breathing pattern to find a moment of mindfulness throughout the day.
I like to choose three things that I do daily. Simple things like brushing my teeth, getting into my car or sitting down to a meal. Each time I do one of these three things, I’ll pause. I’ll sit or stand up nice and tall and let my shoulders relax and just take one deep breath.
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If this sounds like a helpful strategy for you to try, give yourself a quiet, comfortable space to practice. Take a few minutes to give mindful breathing a try every day. Soon enough, you’ll be on your way to beating anxiety, one breath at a time.
*This 360-degree virtual reality experience can be explored by clicking and dragging in the video player window, or by looking around with your phone if you are on mobile. For the most immersive experience, this exercise can be used with VR headsets and Google Cardboard, ideally with over-the-ear headphones for best audio output.