What does the present have to do with stress? Often, stress centers on events that happened yesterday or what might happen tomorrow. It may be regret over what we said or did in the past or fear over a possible future outcome. It is rarely about what is happening today.
Just by tuning into the rhythm of your breath, you can get help to reduce the tension in a stressful situation. When you’re relaxed, your breathing is slow and deep. When you’re anxious or excited, your breathing tends to be more rapid and shallow. By simply slowing down the rate or your breathing and focusing on its rhythm, you can begin to restore calm and clarity. You might even consider counting out 10 full breaths: Breathing in, say “one,” then slowly breath out. Then breathe in again, saying “two,” then slowly breathing out again – and so on, up to ten. Notice how your energy changes.
Here is a short technique for building mind-body balance:
1. You can sit comfortably with your back straight, lie down with your hands by your sides or even lie in a downward dog position. Close your eyes; allow your body to become still and calm.
2. Begin to focus on your breathing, and take several full, deep breaths. Let your breath find its own natural rhythm. Don’t try to control it; just observe it.
3. Bring your attention to the feeling of your breath as it comes into your nose, down your throat, into your belly, then back out again. Feel your belly rise as you inhale and fall as you exhale. Feel the cool air entering your nostrils and the warm air flowing out. With each exhale settle in a little more.
4. You may find that your attention drifts away from your breathing, and you think of other things. Watch these thoughts float by, like bubbles. Then, gently bring your attention back to your breathing.
5. Continue paying attention to your breath. If your attention drifts to an emotion, observe and accept it. See yourself riding it, like a surfer on a wave, and then gently bring your attention back to your breathing. This is practice for learning how to observe your emotions without reacting to them.
6. Try not to judge the thoughts and emotions as they pass through your mind. Gently return to the rise and fall of your breathing for several minutes. Imagine each inhale brings peace and each exhale releases tension.
7. As you finish, congratulate yourself for bringing yourself back into mind-body balance.
Research continues to demonstrate the benefits of mindfulness as beneficial to the management of pain, anxiety and stress. For weight management, the practice of being mindful creates a mental gap or “choice point,” that gives us the clarity to make lifestyle decisions in a more conscious way.