The Coping Kete

No. 131: Mindfulness of My Breath

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

...I will practice being mindful of my breath as a way of changing my state of mind in the moment.

This week, I will try to pause at least once a day to spend a few minutes simply noticing my breathing, as I observe my thoughts and come back to being aware of my breaths.  Observing my thoughts means that as I notice my mind has wandered I describe what I am thinking to myself in my head. For example I might say to myself “Oh I am thinking xyz about work right now…”  and then I will turn my mind to noticing my breathing. Observing and describing my thoughts might help me express to myself what is really going on for me.

I won’t try to change my breathing at all, I will simply sit still for a few minutes while I breathe and notice myself breathing. As I see thoughts come into my head, I will notice what I am thinking and then I will bring my thoughts back to my breathing. I will notice the sensation of the breaths as they come in and out, I will notice the temperature of the air, the sound of my breathing, the way the breath feels on the way in and the way it feels on the way out. While I notice my breathing and observe my thoughts, I will practice having compassion for myself  and not criticising myself for the thoughts I have. Even if I notice myself criticising myself, I will simply bring my thoughts back to my breathing without further judgement. After a few minutes, I will open up my eyes and come back to my day.

It might seem pointless at first, but giving ourselves a chance to be mindful of our breathing has been shown to help a lot of people feel calmer about things, even though it doesn’t change the situation. Taking time to be mindful of our breath can help us  feed ourselves the air we need to have a clear head and give us the space we need for our thoughts to become clear to us.

Once I am used to spending some time being aware of my breathing while I observe my thoughts, I will add this exercise to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of dealing with stress and distress. When I notice myself becoming tense or upset, I will pause and spend some time focused on my breathing while I observe my thoughts without judgement and come back to my breath. No matter what happens, I am still here breathing. This can be an excellent way to give myself some space when things are tough. Sure, breathing doesn’t change anything I am facing, but it gives me some time and room to clear my head and become aware of where I am at in the moment, so I can move forward through my day with awareness and a bit more clarity.

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Acknowledgement: Mindfulness can be traced back to buddhist philosophy. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. Jon Kabbat-Zinn is known for popularising mindfulness in the medical community with the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  The basic practice of mindfulness features in many strategies shared in The Coping Kete. Once you learn the basic skills, you can use mindfulness in any moment you find yourself in, in countless different ways. There is an awful lot behind each of the skills involved. Follow the links above to learn more. 

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