A simple tip to help enhance mental and physical health
Updated: Oct 1
Often when people first commence a conscious breathing practice, while the physiological benefits can be felt & many, it’s often the mindfulness and awareness around the practice that brings a notable shift in the first instance. To know we have this tool right under (via) our nose that can help us to feel better in any given moment can be quite a liberating and/or somewhat enlightening experience for many.
For many of us, we are breathing unconsciously (without giving any thought to it), which means out subconscious mind (body) can often be leading the quality of our breath. This tends to have us breathing shallower and faster, from the chest, which can perpetuate a more dominant sympathetic tone in the nervous system. This is the stress, (fight or flight) tone, and we know this can lead to a variety of symptoms and health outcomes when this becomes chronic.
The pace at which we go about our modern lives often has many of us in a state of chronic stress and mild hyperventilation, and often we will be experiencing symptoms of varying kinds and degree, yet be unaware of the underlying reason.
The tip is this:
To simply pause and check in with your breathing many times a day.
Regularly checking in on your breathing is arguably more important than just formally practicing conscious breathing exercises in isolation. Even just 90 seconds can offer a wonderful mental and physical reset.
For example, you may engage in a morning breath practice each day and feel wonderful, which is absolutely brilliant and you will certainly experience the benefits of that if done in isolation. However, we want to continue to carry/feel these wonderful benefits ongoing throughout our day, we want to promote a mindfulness around how we breathe ongoing and develop a habit of connecting with the breath, connecting with Self and checking in regularly.
Ideas for when you may be able to check in during each day:
Waking 5-10 minutes earlier in the morning for a conscious breath practice
During or after lunch
While sitting at your desk at work, school or uni
When walking from work to your car
While walking around the shopping centre
While resting after dinner
While you're in the shower
While driving or sitting at some traffic lights & make use of otherwise sunk time.
It doesn't have to be a set time(s), fit it in when you remember to. You may start to notice that it feels good and you'll naturally start to do this more frequently with ease.
The beauty of mindfulness and breathing is, you can do it anywhere and anytime!
How you might check in with the breath:
Is the breath shallow?
Is it fast?
Is it slow?
Is it deep?
Is there a natural pause after the exhale?
Is the breath via the nose or the mouth?
Do you feel your diaphragmatic cylinder contracting and expanding with each breath?
We can make conscious adjustments throughout the observation.
For example, if we notice the breath is via the mouth, switch to nasal breathing. If we notice we are breathing fast or rapidly, try to extend the exhale which will help to slow the heart and the respiratory rate, and it will activate the parasympathetic tone of the nervous system and so on.
We want to be breathing nasally (biochemical), slowing the rate of breath down (cadence), bringing the breath down into the diaphragm (biomechanical).
The psychophysiological aspect is that we are bringing our mind to a single pointed focus (mindfulness on the breath) which also helps to alleviate mental angst, and override the cascade of physiological events occurring in the body when a person is stressed or activated.
There are two sayings that come to mind:
1. Show me your habits and I’ll show you your future
2. Our thoughts become our words, our words become our actions, our actions become our habits, our habits become our values and our values become our destiny.
In choosing this regular conscious action of checking in with the breath (Self) at various intervals during each day, our repeated actions will soon become mindful habits that lead to beneficial health outcomes, we value good health, and that good health becomes our future and our destiny.
This simple act of Self care helps to cultivate self awareness and deepen relationship with Self - both can be key steps in facilitating change, healing and growth.
Health, wellbeing and vitality start with small steps and simple repeated actions.
Why not start with a brief focus on your breath and see what happens?
Holly Shoebridge is an advanced Buteyko breathing instructor, holistic counsellor, meditation and mindfulness teacher based on the mid north coast of NSW, Australia.