Finding inner peace and calm in today’s fast-paced world is difficult… but also crucial for our overall well-being. There is so much going on in our lives that it’s easier to be out of balance than it is to remain balanced and centered.
Fortunately, some well-proven and powerful tools can help bring you back to your center and prevent you from feeling overwhelmed. While there are many ‘anchors’ the best is the practice of mindful breathing, or ‘anchoring’ to your breath.
Most people pay little attention, if any, to their breath. For them, it is something that happens as a simple and automatic process. However, when practiced consciously and purposefully, breath awareness can have a profound positive impact on your overall health, well-being, and state of mind.
This article explores how you can anchor your breath to bring about positive changes in your life.
The Power of Mindful Breathing: Using Your Breath as an Anchor
Mindful breathing involves harnessing the power of controlled and focused breathing to anchor yourself in the present moment. It serves as a gateway for greater self-awareness by giving you time to pause and reflect so that you can then respond more thoughtfully to what’s happening in your life.
Using the breath as an anchor in meditation helps develop focus, concentration, and mindfulness. It allows you to cultivate a deeper awareness of the present moment and is, therefore, a valuable tool for managing stress, promoting relaxation, and enhancing overall well-being.
The Main Benefits of Learning to Breathe Mindfully for Physical and Mental Well-Being Are:
1. Stress reduction: Mindful breathing activates the body’s relaxation response, which reduces stress and promotes a sense of calm. It helps to regulate the body’s stress hormones, such as cortisol to promote a state of relaxation.
2. Improved focus and concentration: Mindful breathing enhances concentration and focus by training the mind to stay present and anchored in the present moment. It helps to quiet the mind‘s distractions and enhances cognitive performance.
3. Emotional regulation: Mindful breathing cultivates self-awareness and helps to develop a non-reactive and non-judgmental attitude towards emotions. By observing the breath, you can create space between your thoughts and your emotions. This then allows you to respond to challenging situations with greater clarity and composure.
4. Enhanced self-awareness: Mindful breathing increases self-awareness by bringing attention to ‘how you are’ in the present moment. It helps you to observe your thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions without judgment. And this improved self-awareness leads to a deeper understanding of yourself and your patterns of thinking and behavior.
5. Better physical health: Deep, diaphragmatic breathing during mindfulness practice promotes optimal oxygenation of the body, which can have many physical benefits. It helps to lower blood pressure, improve lung capacity, boost the immune system, and promote overall relaxation and well-being.
6. Improved sleep quality: Practicing mindful breathing before bedtime helps calm the mind, release tension, and promote relaxation, leading to improved sleep quality. Therefore, it can be especially helpful for individuals who struggle with insomnia or have difficulty winding down at the end of a busy day.
Consistent practice is the key to experiencing these benefits. And if you incorporate mindful breathing into your daily routine, you will gradually cultivate a greater sense of calm, improve your ability to focus, and gain a greater sense of overall well-being.
How To Use Your Mindful Breathing as an Anchor In Meditation
Using the breath as an anchor in meditation is a common technique to cultivate mindfulness and focus. It involves directing your attention to the breath and using it as a point of focus throughout your meditation practice. Here’s how you can use the breath as an anchor:
1. Find a comfortable posture: Whether sitting or lying down, find a position that allows you to relax and maintain alertness for the duration of your practice session. Make sure you are not going to be disturbed.
2. Notice your natural breath: Begin by observing the natural flow of your breath without attempting to change it. Pay attention to the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves your body. You can focus on the rising and falling of your abdomen or the sensation of air passing through your nostrils.
3. Anchor your attention: Choose a specific aspect of the breath to anchor your attention. It could be the sensation of the breath flowing through your nostrils, the rise and fall of your abdomen, or the sound your breath makes. Select the point that is easiest to recognize and gently bring your attention back to it whenever you notice that your mind has wandered.
4. Stay present: As you continue to focus on the breath, thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations will arise. When they do, simply acknowledge them without judgment, let them pass, and gently return your attention to your chosen anchor point. Don’t try to change anything. Just allow your body to breathe by itself without any conscious intervention.
5. Maintain continuity: Try to maintain continuous awareness of your breath throughout your meditation session. And if you find your mind wandering frequently, don’t be discouraged. It’s normal for thoughts to arise as our minds are thought-making machines…. Simply notice them, let them go, and continue to bring your attention back to your breath.
6. Practice regularly: Like any skill, using your breath as an anchor in meditation is something that requires practice. If you can set aside dedicated time each day to engage in this practice, you will quickly begin to reap the benefits that practicing brings. It can be a good idea to start with shorter sessions, such as five or ten minutes, and gradually increase the time spent meditating as you become more comfortable with the process.
Breath Awareness can Also be Used Anytime to Alleviate Anxiety
We have a brain that is designed to think and therefore we cannot stop the thinking process. However, we can learn to slow it down, and more importantly, we can learn to focus our thoughts in directions that cause us to have positive emotions instead of negative ones, like anxiety.
I’m sure you’ve all been told at some stage or another, to pay attention. And yet, how many of you were ever taught how to pay attention? I’ll bet the answer is not many!…
And why is it important to learn how to pay attention to what’s going on in your mind? Because the thoughts that are traversing your mind are the difference between you feeling good and feeling bad.
Luckily, you can at any time during the day, just pause and take a minute and become aware of your breath. This means that you can be in the shower, having a cup of coffee, waiting for the red light to change, or walking the dog….
Whenever you think about it, just check in with your breath and notice how it feels. Is it slow and deep or fast and shallow? And now pay attention to how you are feeling…. With awareness, you will begin to notice that your breath is intricately tied to your emotional state…. which is directly connected to the thoughts that are going through your mind at any given time.
If you are feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed, the good news is that you will recognize the thoughts you have been having that have led to this state of being…. And now, with awareness, you can begin to focus your thoughts in a different direction to bring about a corresponding ‘better emotional state.’
With practice, you will soon learn how you can connect to your breath quickly and easily and become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. And with practice, you will develop the skills to focus your mind on ‘better feeling thoughts’ so that you can have a better life experience no matter what is happening around you.
The idea is not to stop your thoughts, but to take control of them…. You are the master of your mind, not the other way around… and once you realize this you can use the immense power of the energy of your mind to create the better life you want.
Final Thoughts about Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is a practice that can take time to develop. It is also a process that can be ongoing for the rest of your life. And as you develop your ability to become more self-aware, your awareness of self becomes much more interesting. You will begin to notice that your breath isn’t always the same, sometimes deep and labored, sometimes shallow and subtle….
Mindful breathing is about allowing ‘what is’ without judgment and allowing the breath to change by itself in coordination with your changing thoughts.
However, you can also experiment by changing your breathing patterns to see how this affects the thoughts you are having, and then notice how this changes your emotional state of being.
Find whatever works best for you and by incorporating mindful breathing practices into your daily routine, you will soon experience profound shifts in your physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
Do some conscious breathing exercises every day because doing something is better than doing nothing, and if you can incorporate mindful breathing into some of the things that you already do every day, it will be easy for you to build and maintain a healthy practice.