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Eugene Farrell

Mindful breathing

Emotional wellbeing

PUBLISHED: 5 April 2019 | LAST UPDATED: 4 October 2023

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Written by Eugene Farrell

Eugene is a highly respected expert in psychological health and wellbeing management.

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When was the last time you really took a moment to focus on yourself and make the world around you stop? In this 24/7 world we live in, we’ve gotten pretty good at operating on auto-pilot. We can go about our days showering, eating and even driving without really thinking about what we’re doing or noticing the little things around us, which is pretty clever – but, is it healthy?

When we’re operating in an automatic way, our minds are free to wander and think about other things, such as worries about the past and the future, whilst ignoring what is happening in the present. This can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety, which can make coping with everyday life a little tricky. 

How do we fix that? The solution is to take time each day – say 10 minutes during your commute or with breakfast – to focus on your breathing. This will allow you to calm your mind and body from the daily grind, clearing your head to think differently.

Being mindful is one of the most ancient practices around the world and is practiced by Buddhist monks. Its simplicity and effectiveness make it the perfect antidote to the demands of 21st century life. Some small steps in the right direction could be a step change in your life.

Mindful breathing doesn't need any fancy equipment or techniques to work, just you and your lungs!

  1. Sit in a quiet place and remove any distractions – put your phone on silent. 
  2. To start, notice what's going on with you right now – any thoughts, feelings or emotions that are going around inside your head, and continue to think about them for a few moments. Try not to alter your perception of these feelings, and just allow them to be as they are, without judgement. 
  3. Bring the focus back to you. This is your time. Other demands and distractions can wait for the next 10 minutes. 
  4. Focus only on your breathing. Breathe in through your nose slowly and steadily until your lungs are full, and out through your mouth until they’re empty. 
  5. Notice your lungs expanding, and the time between each inhalation and exhalation. 
  6. Feel yourself relax on each exhale, your shoulders dropping, your arms and legs becoming heavy. If your mind wanders, acknowledge it, and then gently take your mind back to focusing on your breathing. 
  7. Feel the cool air as it moves into your nostrils, notice the sensation, and feel the warm air leaving your mouth over your lips. 
  8. Finally, when you’re ready, gradually bring yourself back to where you are – wiggle your toes and fingers. Smile.
  9. Take just a few moments and move on, don’t rush.

Repeat regularly throughout the day if possible, and take time to contemplate how each repetition of the exercise makes you feel and how it has affected a specific task.

The technique might feel tricky at first. Don’t be too hard on yourself, some days it will come easier than others. If you found this useful, you could try another one of our exercises; How to walk mindfully. The activity doesn’t matter; it’s all about making sure you focus on the present moment. 

Take a break and listen to our Breathing Mindfully podcast, guiding you to quickly quieten your mind:

If you’ve found this podcast useful, why not listen to our Walking Mindfully podcast

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.