Source: Sixty and Me
For all living creatures, breathing happens naturally, so it’s easy to ignore the power of this gift of nature. However, when you start to practice mindful breathing, you can unlock several benefits for your body and mind.
How do you become deliberate about every breath you take? This article will discuss several mindful breathing techniques that will help you ease stress, anxiety and improve the overall psychological well-being of older adults in senior care.
What is Mindful Breathing?
Source: Psychology Today
Mindful breathing is a simple meditation practice that involves focusing all of your attention on your breathing. If done correctly, this exercise can provide relief from stress, help you relax, and help you gain better clarity across many aspects of your daily life.
Mindful breathing is more than just taking deep breaths at regular intervals; it requires paying attention to the natural rhythm of every breath and how it feels as you inhale and exhale. It helps you to feel every pulse in a particular moment and time and ignore negative emotions.
The good thing is you don’t need any complex preparations to engage in mindful breathing—it is something you can practice at any time you start to feel stressed.
Benefits of Mindful Breathing
Source: Very Well Health
Embracing mindful breathing as part of self-care for seniors can help them live a more peaceful and fulfilling life. Over the years, experts have linked this exercise to several health benefits for the body and soul, including reduced anxiety, recovery from depression, and lower stress levels. Let’s discuss some of its benefits for your health in detail.
Mindful Breathing Reduces Stress Levels
When your body suffers from stress, it triggers quick and shallow breathing, an adrenaline rush, and an increased heart rate. All of these symptoms can affect the oxygen circulation in your body.
Mindful breathing helps you achieve stress reduction by calming your brain and controlling your body’s stress response. By consciously focusing on each breath, breathing exercises can help your nervous system to relax, lower your blood pressure, and slow down your heart rate to optimal levels.
Mindful Breathing Can Help Reduce Depression
Practicing mindful breathing regularly can help you ward off the negative feelings associated with depression, panic, and anxiety caused by dementia or Alzheimer’s. This exercise helps older adults become aware of their surroundings’ beauty and reflect on their personal journey in a non-judgmental way.
Mindful Breathing Can Relieve Diabetic Symptoms
Mindful breathing helps people with diabetes lower stress and stress response which ultimately reduces their blood glucose levels. For example, in 2014, comprehensive mindfulness training, including focused breathing, helped U.S. veterans with diabetes significantly lower their diabetes-related distress and blood sugar levels and improve their self-management of the disease.
Mindful Breathing Helps You Manage Chronic Pain
Mindful breathing acts as pain relief for patients. When you practice mindful breathing, you teach your body to focus on positive and relaxing experiences instead of negative or worrisome thoughts about any pain you’re feeling. Mindful breathing helps you pay attention to your breaths and accompanying body sensations to help you manage pain.
Common Ways to Care For Your Lungs
To get the most results from mindful breathing, you should embrace the best practices for caring for your lungs and body. Some steps you can take include:
- Avoiding exposure to pollutants
- Engaging in aerobic exercises regularly
- Quitting smoking
- Washing your hands regularly with soap and water, especially in the flu season
Mindful Breathing Techniques and Exercises
Source: Melbourne Child Psychology
As mentioned earlier, mindful breathing is more than taking deep breaths for several minutes a day. The next question that follows, especially for newcomers, is, “how exactly does mindful breathing work?”
There are several mindful breathing exercises you can try. Many of these exercises are simple, and you can figure them out on your own; for the advanced techniques, you should practice them with a trained professional.
If you’re a first-timer for mindful breathing, you’d want to start with simpler exercises before exploring more complex breathing techniques. Here are some mindful meditation exercises for your heart and brain health.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or relaxing your mind, the 2-4 breath method is definitely one to try. It’s a simple and healthy way to reduce stress, fight insomnia and enjoy the beauty sleep that your body and mind need.
2–4 breathing involves exhaling longer than you take in air. This technique stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, helping to reduce your body’s stress response.
To perform the 2–4 breathing meditation method, you inhale to the count of two and immediately exhale at four. You can repeat this as many times as you wish until you fall asleep.
As the name suggests, deep breathing involves inhaling fully into your belly and exhaling wholly and gradually. Deep breathing helps you turn off your body’s stress response and calms your brain from unnecessary agitation. It’s a great way to reassure your mind that everything is under control.
For many people, it can be challenging to focus on one thing for an extended period. If this sounds like you, then you should try the counting breaths method of mindful breathing.
This technique involves counting every breath you take—you’ll notice that it’s surprisingly hard to follow your breath, and one good trick for staying on task is to count it.
Counting breaths is a great way to control your hyperactive mind by focusing only on counting. Behavioral research suggests that this breathing technique helps take you out of thought loops that feed stress, anxiety, or negative emotions.
Taking bouts of energizing breaths can help invigorate your mind and fill you with the energy to start or continue your day. Energizing breaths also make you more alert, especially if you’ve had a slow day.
Here’s how it works: Inhale in four equal but distinct segments to fill the lungs, then exhale in one, long, smooth segment to empty the lungs completely—by the fourth time of repeating this exercise, you should have enough energy to get on with your day.
Mindful Breathing Scripts
Meditation scripts can make mindful breathing even more fun and impactful. Whether you’re a first-timer or you’ve been at this for a while, mindful breathing scripts can guide you to focus on each breath and create a positive experience for your body, mind and soul.
Here is a simple mindful breathing script you can try for your next guided meditation session. If you like, you can create yours too!
Source: The Smith Center
Settle into a comfortable position in loose clothing and close your eyes gently. You can sit it lie down but ensure that your head, neck, and spine are well-aligned.
As your body settles and your eyes close, pay attention to every breath you take. Notice your inhaling and exhaling closely.
Now, follow every breath with your understanding. Pay attention as it goes all the way in, and follow the breath all the way out. Don’t try to change the pace in any way.
Just breathe in, and breathe out. As you breathe in, feel the air as it passes through your nostrils. As you breathe out, feel the air as it leaves your nostrils.
Keeping your awareness lightly and gently on your breath, breathe mindfully in the present moment.
“Breathing in, I know I am breathing in…
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.”
If thoughts come in…as they always do… acknowledge the thoughts, without judgment, and let them go… let them drift away like clouds floating across the sky… and bring your awareness back to your breath, back to your breathing… back to the present moment.
“Breathing in… I know I am breathing in…
Breathing out… I know I am breathing out…”
Every time your attention moves away from the breath, or you feel distracted by a thought or something that’s bothering you, don’t ignore it.
Instead, notice the thought, acknowledge the thought, and then let it go. Bring your awareness back to your breathing and back to the present moment.
Focus entirely on every breath you take. Let your awareness be on the breath as it comes in and as it goes out.
Notice the familiar rhythm of the breath.
“Breathing in, I calm my body…
Breathing out, I smile…”
When you bring your awareness to the breath in this way, you connect the mind, the body, and the soul in the present moment.
The word for breath and the word for spirit in many languages are the same. As you focus on each breath, your awareness connects mind, body, and spirit in the present moment.
“Dwelling in the present moment…
I know this is a wonderful moment…”
Continue to mindfully breathe in this way for as long as you like. You can play around with different breath works to build a rhythm around the exercise.
Follow every breath all the way in—notice the slight pause at the turning point as the in-breath becomes the out-breath.
Now, follow the breath all the way out and notice the brief pause at the turning point as the out-breath becomes the in-breath. Be aware of the steady, familiar rhythm of the breath.
Repeat this exercise for 10 to 15 minutes if possible.
As this meditation comes to an end, close your eyes for a bit longer. At that moment, notice how you are feeling—your body, your mind, and your spirit.
If you like, offer gratitude for this time you have taken for yourself— to be quiet, breathe, and bring yourself back into balance.
Slowly, come back into the room, and become aware of your body in the chair and the rest of your surroundings.
Open your eyes whenever you are ready.
Mindful breathing is the best start to a healthy day. By taking out a few minutes for breathing exercises, you can regulate stress levels, relieve any form of anxiety, and boost your energy. Even better, breath works can be done anywhere and at any time, and you don’t need any special tools to pull them off.
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