Last Updated: January 26th, 2019

“Remember to breathe,” I recently wrote those three simple, yet powerful, words in an online chat to someone going through a rough time. My simple advice to him was:

Many may think this an absurd statement but under extremes of stress, often we forget to breathe. Have you ever been at the end of your rope, feeling on the verge of pulling out your hair and so overwhelmed with frustration and anger that you could explode?  Well, the next time it happens, try to keep in mind these three simple words, “remember To breathe,” and you’ll notice that in your heightened state of anxiety and emotional turmoil, you may actually be breathing less than normal or not at all.

As our lives spin onward, we often feel dragged along, simply existing in an environment over which we have no control, the more we can change that mindset the better and it all begins with a simple task called relaxation… just remember to breathe.

Our breath is our most life-affirming action. Not only is it the basest component of our physical life, but it can also serve to calm us, centre us and ground us. The simple task of breathing in deeply and exhaling slowly and gently can help restore calm to a body on the verge of rocketing into space. Think of it this way, when we were children, about to take the stage for the first time in the school play, we can remember the anxiety, the fear of being out there on that stage with all the moms and dads looking at you expectantly; what was the last piece of advice that stuck in your head before your teacher or someone else shoved you into the spotlight? Well, if you’re anything like me, it was, “OK, deep breath… there’s your cue, good luck.” Deep breath. I remember those words clearly, just as I can still feel the pressure of the grounding hand on my shoulder. Deep breath. I took that advice and carried it with me throughout my life.

There is something about taking a deep breath that serves to reset our system, calm our musculature and return our mind to the present moment. So simple, yet so overlooked. The simple act of breathing deeply serves to ground us, put a stop, if only momentarily, to thoughts that are spiralling out of control, catastrophizing and driving our mood ever downward into depression or anger and frustration. It helps us to let it go. A simple conscious deep breath serves as a stop sign to emotionally driven thinking; a return to our awareness. It is the most basic task of being mindfully aware.

Anyone can do it at any time without needing any special equipment. Just a few seconds out of your day helps towards finding the peace and calm that you seek. Every day, try to be mindful of your breath. Don’t force it, don’t change it, allow it to be what it is, a natural rhythm, our basic most life-affirming action. For a second or two out of each day, focus only on your breath, clear your mind of all other distractions. Feel your breath enter and exit your nostrils, expand and relax your chest, notice the smooth flow of your breath and notice how your body responds to it. If you’re like me, you’ll feel your muscles relax as you momentarily let go of the spiralling world around you and you become immersed completely in where you are at that exact moment. There is something so utterly calming in the simple act of breathing. There is something so soothing in its natural rhythm. As you become more and more aware of this basic tool in your fight against the pressures of everyday life, you’ll notice that the fight becomes less aggravating and you’ll begin to find great inner peace. Living mindfully begins with one simple step, just remember to breathe.

image: man breathing via Shutterstock