Last week, I was rushed getting into work. There was a train that took forever, my coffee spilled in the front seat, and everyone on the road seemed to be driving 5 miles under the speed limit. I was frantic, late, and in a hurry. I scrambled out of the car, grabbed my bags, and ran up to my office. I had a client coming in 15 minutes, and I still had to open up the office, prep for session, and make a quick phone call.
I turned the key quickly on my office door, threw my bags down. I whipped out my computer and opened the screen. And then I stopped. I was completely still. I sat back in my chair, closed my eyes, and focused on my breath. I took a slow, deep breath, in through my nose, held my breath for several seconds, and then slowly exhaled. I repeated this again, slowly, bringing all my attention and my awareness to my breath in the moment. My heart rate slowed down, my breathing approached normal, and my stress eased. My muscles relaxed and my brain focused. I continued to move through my morning to-do list, but now at a slower, less frenzied, and more productive pace.
This is the power of mindful breathing. It allows us to stop, no matter how stressful or rushed the moment, focusing on our breath and on our bodies. It allows us to take a pause before we haphazardly continue with what we were doing.
Believe it or not, I pause for a moment of mindful breathing each and every morning when I open up my computer. I’ve trained myself to take a few slow, deep breaths each and every time I open my computer. Why? Because I’m guaranteed to do this activity almost every single day. By combining my breath with this daily activity, I’m creating a habit, one that I can repeat over and over with consistency.
Here are some other moments I try to squeeze in a mindful breath or two.
Any time I put my car in park. I take my hands off the steering wheel, place them in my lap, and take one full, deep breath before getting out of the car.
After I push the “brew” button on my coffee pot. I stand back, close my eyes, and take one mindful breath.
Before I eat a meal. I set down my plate, sit back in my seat, and take one full breath, helping my brain slow down and prepare for the act of eating.
When I get into bed at night. I pull the covers up, put away any books or electronics, and turn out the lights. I focus on my body and take a few slow breaths, feeling the tension melt away.
By connecting a mindful breath to a specific activity, you help train your brain to stop and pause regularly. It will likely take some very intentional effort at first (think sticky notes on your computer or reminders on your phone), but with practice, it can become a habit.
I want you to select one activity that you can connect a mindful breath to today. You can borrow one of my ideas from above, or you can create your own, but I want you to be intentional about squeezing in a mindful breath, no matter what else is going on.
I’d love to hear your plan! What activity do you do daily that can prompt you to take a mindful breath?