Mental Health Awareness Month | Week 3 Blog by Dr. Sabina Mauro

At this point, you have been asked to notice your breath for two weeks. Maybe you have or maybe you have realized how easy it is to tune out your breath. That’s okay because in either situation you are not alone. Just know that the benefits of mindful breathing can be life changing for the better. If you would like to begin now, we will go over some practical techniques and if you have been practicing, you will be introduced to additional ways to practice mindful breathing.

The best part about mindful breathing is that it can be done anywhere and at any point in time and life, bringing a restorative sense of calmness. You don’t need special equipment, special settings, it can be done at your desk at work, it can be done in the morning or at night in bed, it can be done in the car, or while sitting on the couch. Possibilities are endless, as long as you remember to bring attention to your breath.  Make mindful breathing a part of your daily lifestyle!

For optimal results, mindful breathing is recommended to be part of your daily routine. It is best to practice at least twice a day for a minimum of 10 minutes.

Here are a few ways to practice breathing techniques. As a reminder, not all of these will work for everyone so pick the ones that feel most comfortable to you.

Triangle breathing. Triangle breathing involves breathing with a triangle in mind. As you breathe in for 3 seconds, imagine that with each count, you go up the first side of the triangle. Hold the breath for 3 seconds and imagine that with each count, you go up the second side of the triangle. As you breathe out for 3 seconds imagine that with each count you go up the third side of the triangle. Repeat.

Box breathing.  Breathe out slowly. Breathe in deeply (inhale) for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. Breathe out (exhale) for 4 seconds. Hold for 4 seconds. This hold signals your body that another box is about to begin. Repeat.

Belly breathing. This may be done best when laying down. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other one on your belly, just below your rib cage. As you breathe in slowly through your nose, your hand on your belly should be rising. The hand on your chest remains still as possible. Exhale slowly. Your hand on your chest should continue to remain still as possible.

4-7-8 breathing. For this breathing exercise, you inhale for 4 counts, hold for a count of 7, then exhale for a count of 8. Repeat.

Alternate nostril breathing. For this technique, close one nostril during your inhale and then close your alternate nostril for the exhale.

Color breathing. For this breathing exercise, you imagine a specific color that brings you feeling of calmness, relaxation, or happiness. As you breathe in, imagine the color entering your skull, slowly spreading throughout the rest of your body. As you breathe out, imagine the color slowly leaving your body. Repeat.

Straw breathing. Inhale normally and naturally. Exhale fully and slowly through a plastic drinking straw. Repeat.

Pursed lip breathing. With your mouth closed, inhale slowly through your nose for 2 counts. Pucker or purse your lips as though you are going to whistle or blow a kiss. Exhale slowly by blowing air through your pursed lips for a count of 4.

Try out some new breathing techniques this week and see which ones fit within your lifestyle. You could research the benefits of each technique specifically as not all breathing techniques are intended to have the same impact. Continue to set a daily reminder (or two) and look to gradually increase your daily minimum for maximum results. This would be a great time to start if you haven’t already.

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