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Practising mindful breathing

Researchers are discovering that practising mindfulness can help to improve our physical as well as our mental wellbeing.

Conditions ranging from heart health, pain and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) through to addiction, anger and anxiety can all be improved through mindfulness.

But to start us off, psychological health expert at AXA PPP healthcare, Eugene Farrell, gives some tips on how to practice mindful breathing.

What is the benefit of mindful breathing?

Most of us lead such busy lives where we constantly find ourselves flitting from one thing to another so to find time to stop and just be in the moment can be difficult.

“Much of the time our bodies react automatically to situations without us even noticing”.  Eugene says that we tend to spend so much time worrying about things that have happened or may happen that we forget to make the most of the present.  “It is important to take the time to appreciate what is happening around us right now as it is gone all too quickly.”

“If we keep our focus and learn to live in the present it helps us to manage our lives in a more positive way; we are then better equipped to deal with what life brings us and able to look at things in a more detached, non-judgemental fashion.”

Concentrating on our breathing allows us to calm our mind and body and ensures our head is clear so we can look at situations in other, more positive ways.  All it takes is to focus on our breathing for say 10 minutes a day – easy to do during our commute to work or while we are having our morning cuppa – and “this will enable us to be completely grounded in the present.”  “Once we have learned the technique then we’ll always be able to use it to help us.”

Learn mindful breathing by following these simple steps

All we need to practice mindful breathing is ourselves, nothing else!

  • Firstly find a quiet place to sit and remember to switch off your phone!
  • Start by noticing what is happening inside you at this moment – are there any emotions, feelings or thoughts going on in your head? Try to think about them briefly, do not change the way you feel about these thoughts but let them just drift around without judging them.
  • Now bring back your focus. This is the time that you have set aside for you, so concentrate on you and let the other distractions wait.
  • Breathing is your focus now. Breathe slowly in through your nose and out through your mouth
  • Think about the time there is between each breath and feel your lungs expanding.
  • Relax a little each time you exhale. Your arms and legs should be heavy now and your shoulders should be lower.  If you feel your thoughts drifting then gradually re-focus on your breathing.
  • Notice the difference in the air that you inhale and the air that you exhale, how does it feel?
  • After a few more moments slowly ‘wake yourself up’ – stretch your fingers and toes. And smile.
  • Take your time to fully reconnect, slowly move on with your day.

These steps should be repeated as much as you can throughout the day.  Learn to recognise how you feel each time you repeat your mindful breathing and whether it affects anything you have been trying to achieve.

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