This habit is about using controlled breathing exercises to trigger relaxation responses in the body.
Our breath connects our mind and body.
When we are stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, our breathing becomes shallow and rapid. This pattern sends signals to our brain reinforcing the stress response.
By intentionally controlling our breathing, we can send different messages to our brain, helping shift from a state of alertness to one of calm.
Deliberate and focused breathing activates our parasympathetic nervous system – the counterpart to the fight-or-flight response. This “rest-and-digest” system helps in reducing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and calming the mind, paving the way for relaxation and recuperation.
Breath work can also help in clearing that mental fog we often experience in stressful situations by increasing the oxygen supply, enhancing brain function, and bringing clarity to our thoughts.
Deep, controlled breathing also acts as a reset button, helping us to better regulate our emotions, enabling us to handle challenging situations with more poise and less reactivity.
Finally, breath work serves as an anchor to the present moment. By focusing on our inhalations and exhalations, we become more attuned to the here and now, setting aside rumination about the past or worries about the future.
Here’s how you can give a basic breath work meditation a try:
1) Get comfortable by either sitting or laying down, whatever seems the most convenient and relaxing.
2) Set a timer for 5 minutes and then forget about it. Let the timer take care of you by keeping track of the time and announcing once your session is done.
3) Close your eyes.
4) Take a deep breath in through your nose, observing how the air flows into your body and pushes your belly out.
5) Breathe out through your mouth, observing how the air flows out of your body and your belly falls into a more relaxed position.
6) On the next deep breath in, begin to count to 10. So that’s 1 in, 2 out, 3 in, 4 out… Observe each breath and focus on how the air flows in or out of your body.
7) When you reach 10, start again at 1 and keep going until your 10-minute timer goes off.
8) If you get distracted, start with the number that you left off with. Try to stay mindful and focused enough to notice when you reach 10 breaths and need to restart at 1 again. If you overcount or lose your place, it’s not the end of the world. Simply start back at 1 again.
9) Allow your thoughts to come and go, kind of like they’re clouds drifting across the sky. There’s no need to chase them away or get annoyed with them, simply notice that they’re there and then gently bring your attention back to your breath.
10) When your timer goes off, open your eyes, take 3 good deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to end off the session.
Notice how you feel physically and mentally after each session. Are you calmer and more relaxed? Do you feel different to when you started?
5 Minutes a day is enough, but this exercise can be shortened to a 1-2 minute session or lengthened into a 10-, 20- or even 30-minute session depending on your time and level of stress.
✅ Use Habit Stacking by piggybacking a breathwork exercise on top of an existing habit that you already do, such as “After I finish checking my emails in the morning, I’ll take 5 minutes for breath work.“
✅ Combine your breath work with a pleasant activity like listening to calming music or sitting in a favorite spot.
✅ Have a comfortable spot ready, whether it’s a cozy chair, a corner of a room, or even your parked car.
✅ Keep it short and do-able – remember, even just a couple of minutes can make a difference. It’s consistency over duration.
✅ Celebrate the calm by focusing on and enjoying the immediate tranquillity it brings. Let this sense of relaxation be the reward that drives you to return to the habit.