Breathing Intentionally: How to use your breath to quiet your mind

If you’re anything like me (or like many of my clients with little ones) that chattering brain of yours gets in the way far too often. I’m talking about the times during the day when you know you “should” be doing something productively. Perhaps trying to write that email, send off that simple text, or jot down your meal plan for the next week (you know, things that shouldn’t take more than a moment or two but with that anxiety and worry swirling in your mind it seems to take forever), but instead you’re stuck worrying about all the other tasks that your brain is tricking you into thinking are more important than the one you’ve decided to start. These are times when I wish I could shut off my brain and focus on the task at hand. I find that my anxiety takes over and that little critic in my head starts reminding me of the twenty other things that I “should” be doing to better occupy my time.

Well, good news! You don’t have to let your anxiety and worry block you from being productive and keep you from accomplishing what you have set out to do. Research has found that taking a few moments out of your day to practice some simple deep breathing exercises can help reduce anxiety, increase your overall sense of happiness, and bring your thoughts back into the present. What is even more exciting is that you don’t need to schedule your day around deep breathing exercises nor do you need to wait until “the time is right,” meaning you can stop waiting until the kids are down or when your work day is over. The technique below can be used anytime of the day and is quick enough to add into your already busy schedule. Try using it twice a day for one week and see how well it works to reduce your anxiety and worry.

Here are 5 simple steps to bring your mind back into the present and quiet your anxiety:

Step 1: Start by exhaling through your mouth until you feel you have completely exhaled. When you do this, make sure that your exhale is audible and makes a “whoosh” sound.

Step 2: Close your mouth and start to inhale through your nose to the count of four.

Step 3: While holding your breath, count to seven. If you have difficulty holding your breath while counting to seven, speed up the process until you are more comfortable with this length of time. What is important is to keep the 4/7/8 ratio and speed up or slow down the process to fit your comfort level.

Step 4: Exhale out through your mouth to the count of 8.

Step 5: Repeat this breathing exercise four more times starting with Step 1. As your comfort level increases, slow down your counts and breathe deeper to achieve a more relaxed state.

Now that you have a simple method to relaxing, try it! For those of you who like more guided breathing exercises, try this one or this one when you have a few moments. If you have older children, maybe ages three and up, try teaching them how to do this with you and make an activity out of it! You know an activity is a winner when both mommy and kiddo are in a more calmed and relaxed state!

Once you become comfortable with this exercise, use it throughout your day whenever you feel your anxiety and worry coming back to take over your thoughts. If you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night, try using this when you lay down to calm your mind or when you wake-up at night to fall back asleep. Try adding this deep breathing exercise into your routine to finally say goodbye to anxiety and take back control of your mind.