How three deep breaths can help you
It’s World Mental Health Day today, 10 October. Mental health issues affect around 1 in 4 of us every year, from stress, anxiety, panic attacks, paranoia and low mood to less common problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
While medication has its rightful place, there are many practices that can help us to improve our mental health - body, mind and heart. Too often, people are afraid to talk about their mental health because they fear it will affect their jobs or relationships. In this blog I want to share some of my own experiences of anxiety with you - and show you how a simple daily breathing exercise can help.
I have a history of mental ill-health. Anxiety was a constant unpleasant companion in my life for almost four decades, until I learned how to spend more time in the present moment rather than living out stories in my head.
Worrying about what hasn’t happened
Many things terrified me. I constantly believed that something bad was going to happen to me. When I was small I feared that I would get lost, that I would have to go to hospital, that I was going to be separated from my mother and sister. As a young adult and later in my life I worried about money, about losing my job, about being lonely. These thoughts kept me in a constant state of high alert and worry. Anxiety – worrying about what has not yet happened - stopped me from living fully.
Life felt precious and I wanted to live differently. I started to practice living more from my body and heart every day. To let myself know several times a day that I was fundamentally okay, that right now I was here, that I had a job, friends, a home, that I was breathing and that my heart was beating.
Are you ready to live differently?
Pausing and taking three deep breaths helps us to instantly drop out of overthinking, worrying, over-analysing and into our direct sensory experience – what we feel, hear, see - into the body, into this moment. When we take this moment to pause, we can ground ourselves, calm down, see and think clearly and have more choice. It’s powerful and it can radically change how we experience ourselves, others and the world around us.
A simple breathing exercise
Get into the habit of taking three deep breaths five times a day. First thing in the morning, mid-morning, at lunchtime, in the afternoon and just before going to bed. Use your phone to remind you or put a post-it note on your computer screen, desk or fridge - whatever works for you.
When it’s time to take three deep breaths, pause, feel your feet on the earth, sense the sky above your head. You can do this wherever you are – at your desk, standing, while travelling – with your eyes open or closed.
Begin to breathe in by slightly extending the in-breath. Notice your belly expanding; on the out-breath feel your belly subsiding.
Take two more deep breaths.
Practice this for a week and notice how it changes your day-to-day experience.
If you find it helpful, keep practicing it daily.
This may seem simplistic and you may feel doubtful about how it could be helpful. Give it a go for a week and find out for yourself. It can radically change how you live and experience your life.
Need a little help? Book a free coaching taster session with me while walking in beautiful Victoria Park in London, or via video call or phone.
As always, I’d like to hear how you are getting on.
With warm wishes,