Breathing Your Way to a Better Life

Inhale. Exhale. Repeat. 

Let’s face it, these days, it feels pretty hard to let go…and not only let go, but also just be with what is in each moment. We are faced with constant demands and distractions, each one competing for our time, energy, and resources. Between planning for our next meal, that bill that needs to be paid, needing to buy dog food (which is almost always seeming to be the case for me these days), the messy house that needs attention since there are out of town visitors arriving tomorrow, in addition to everything we may be bombarded with from social media, television, etc., life can feel overwhelming, to say the least, most days. Sometimes our minds can feel like they are going a million miles an hour, yet we feel like we are getting nothing accomplished, and on top of that we feel drained of energy and lack excitement about life…

If this sounds like you, well you aren’t alone…and even better, there is a way out! One of the most effective ways to bring stillness to the mind and facilitate an overall sense of well-being is by focusing on the breath. Even if you start with just one breath. Stop whatever you are doing, and bring your full awareness to the breath; completely exhale all the air from your lungs, then focus on just one full, deep inhale, followed by one complete exhale. Bring your awareness to the sensations you feel in your body as you do this, the chest rising and the ribs expanding on the inhale, and then the chest falling with everything contracting inward on the exhale, as you completely empty your lungs. It’s amazing how clearing this can be, especially for the mind. Just stopping and focusing on something that we do all the time, without even thinking about it, has the potential to facilitate so much clarity and bring us back to the present moment. Our breath is a tool that we have available to us in each moment, and it is especially helpful in moments when we are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, worried, or anxious. 

Breathing intentionally and deeply like this doesn’t just have positive effects on mood or with helping to clear your mind…there are also beneficial physiological benefits, such as: increased circulation, pain reduction (due to endorphin release), decrease in blood pressure and heart rate, improved detoxification, increase in energy, as well as many more. The best part is that it’s free, available to everyone, everywhere and at any time!

So when was the last time you remember taking a deep breath? If you can’t remember, it’s been too long! It’s possible to go an entire day without truly taking a deep breath, as we jump from one thing to the next, allowing ourselves to get caught up and swept away in the busyness that most of the time ends up being day-to-day life. So here is what I suggest…

Every morning, before you get out of bed, while you are still lying down, bring your hands to rest with your palms face down on your abdomen, then completely empty your lungs with an exhale out through your nose, and then take as deep and full a breath in as possible, also through your nose, really concentrating on the expansion of the breath as it moves into the body. You should notice your chest rise as well as your hands rising as they rest on your abdomen. Feel the breath move into the side body as your ribcage expands on either side. Hold the breath there as long as you comfortably can, likely just a few seconds, and then slowly and completely exhale the breath, noticing your chest and your hands falling, as everything moves inward toward the body again. Do this for 5-10 breaths. Then repeat this at night just before going to sleep, right when you get into bed. This will also have a calming and relaxing effect when done just before sleep, promoting better rest during the night. Over time, making this part of your daily routine will likely  help you to remember to breathe deeply at different times throughout each day, especially during times of stress, fatigue, or anxiety.

So can you breathe your way to a better life? The best way to find out is to try it yourself and see what happens…my guess is that it will far exceed any expectation!

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“Focusing on the act of breathing clears the mind of all daily distractions and clears our energy, enabling us to better connect with the Spirit within.” -Author Unknown

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