Self-care simply starts by taking a mindful breath, inhale then exhale.
While this may sound like a cliché, it is true. It is not only true, it is simple. Yes, simple. With every breath, you are making a mindful decision that you want to live. Mindful breathing is one of the simplest forms of meditation and one of the best ways to practice living in the present moment. Making a decision that you want to live is self-care. When we attend to our breath it brings us to the present moment. Even more so, the way we breathe has a powerful correlation to how we feel.
Despite the inherently automatic nature of breathing, most people have a great deal to learn and improve upon when it comes to the most basic of our physiological functions. I am sure you are aware of the saying, “If I don’t take care of myself, I am no good to anyone else.” Well, this is about as true as it gets. While it may seem easier said than done, that is not necessarily true. I don’t believe that anyone does not truly want to take care of oneself; instead I believe that one may just not know how. When you don’t know how to do something, what do you do? You learn and practice and learn and practice and so on… Start to visualize what self-care even means to you. Did you take a breath since you have been reading this post? Chances are yes, but now I want you to stop and take a mindful breath-inhale then exhale-now. With this breath, you brought yourself into the present moment.
Doesn’t that feel good? Mindful breathing—paying attention to your breath and learning how to manipulate it—is one of the most beneficial ways to reduce everyday stress levels and improve numerous health factors ranging from calming the mind to aiding in digestion. Mindful, deep breathing can also help sharpen your ability to concentrate. Breathing brings oxygen to the brain. Breathing is the only way to supply our body and its various organs with oxygen. When you are anxious, afraid, or stressed, your muscles become tight and your breathing gets shallow. Shallow breathing limits the amount of oxygen your body needs. Shallow breathing may lead to increased tension and fatigue, So again, when you breathe and your brain receives oxygen; it actually releases tension, relaxes the mind and body, and brings clarity, just to name a few.
Abdominal breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is a powerful way to decrease stress by activating relaxation centers in the brain. Only 5 to 20 minutes of diaphragmatic breathing (belly breath) activates our relaxation system. When we intentionally breathe deeply, many internal reactions happen to aid in mental focus, reduction of stress, increased joy and inner enthusiasm.
Take another mindful breath with an inhale then an exhale. Training your mind to focus on one thing (your breathing) without bouncing from one thought to the next is a great way to manage stress, calm your mind and improve your overall well being!
Mindful breathing is an excellent form of self care.
I want you to try this for your next set of mindful breaths: Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down, with your feet slightly apart, one hand on your abdomen near the navel, and the other hand on your chest.
All my best to you,
Erica Ives, Santa Cruz Clinical Director @ The Lotus Collabortaive.com