Deep breathing is one of the cornerstones of health. Shallow breathing depletes our energy and causes physical and mental stress. Deep breathing nourishes every cell in the body, helps protect us from disease, and gives us more energy. But knowing that fact and actually living it are two very different things. Here are some ways to bring more deep breathing into your life.
Let Go of the Unnecessary
There are only so many hours in a day. Our time is more precious than most of us realize. Learn to value your time, and only keep in your life things that are truly necessary, valuable, or that you find beautiful. This goes for physical stuff, as well as the ways that you spend your time. You might be amazed how many minutes each day you spend on things that do not contribute to your life in positive ways and are not actually necessary.
Take the Long Road
Adding moments to our day when we can pause is a vital component of mental and physical health. Making moments when we can simply breathe, even in the midst of our to-do lists and busyness, is important for our sanity and wellbeing. One of the ways to do that is to let go of rushing.
Maybe that means that you get less accomplished in the morning and take an earlier train so you dont have to hurry, or that you drive home on the route that is more pleasant but not as fast. Perhaps it means that you let go of striving for that promotion or accomplishment, and let things unfold with a lot more patience.
Another way to find more time to breathe is to walk as much as you can. Walking engages the cardiovascular system and helps calm the mind. It gets us to breathe deeply naturally. It makes us focus on the present moment without being too strenuous. A powerful Buddhist practice is walking meditation, where you apply purposeful mindfulness to each step. But every time you walk can be an opportunity to re-connect to your breathing.
One Hour a Day
This busy world will not give us time to relax, we need to carve it out. Set aside one hour each day of unstructured time. One hour with no to-do list, no smartphone, no plans. In that hour you might drink tea, meditate, draw, dance, or stare out the window. Just remember to breathe deeply that whole time, and choose activities that inspire your breath. Studies have shown that creativity is greatly improved by giving ourselves unstructured time to let the mind wander. Give yourself an hour a day to just be.
One Minute Wonders
Find minutes of mindfulness. Take one minute to focus on your breathing when you first wake in the morning. One minute before you eat your food, one minute before you leave your home for the day. Get into the habit of taking a minute to breathe at moments throughout your day.
Learn to Delegate
Along with letting go of the unnecessary, learning to empower others is an important aspect of giving ourselves more time. This could mean asking your spouse or children to help around the house, or hiring a bookkeeper. But take some of that weight off your shoulders so you have more time to breathe.
Turn It Off
Most people spend way too much time staring at our electronic devices. When they go off we tend to feel that tug to check them, even if we are doing something else. That draws on our energy and can interfere with our ability to relax. Whenever possible, turn off your phone, computer, and tablet. Enjoy moments when you are not electronically connected, and turn that attention inward.
Make Space a Priority
Just as you do with eating and sleeping (hopefully), make open space a priority in your home and on your calendar.
You dont have to go off by yourself to find peace, and often that would be impossible. Invite your family and friends to breathe deeply with you. Incorporate minutes of quiet deep breathing into your routine with your children and buddies. Let the power of breathing bring you and your loved ones closer together.
Be Where You Are
There is no waiting to breathe deeply. While we want to schedule in time to relax, breathing is not something we can wait for the perfect moment to explore. We need to breathe deeply in every moment. Accept every moment for what and how it is, and breathe into it. Feel into the present moment, and let your breath bring you home to yourself.
It is recorded in ancient yogic texts that the mystics believed our lives are measured by the number of breaths we take. That we are each given a pre-determined number of breaths when we are born, and when they are done so are our lives. Taking time to slow down our minds and breaths allows us to savor life, to get the most out of each and every one of our precious moments, and even give us longer, richer lives.