Just Keep Breathing

In the movie Finding Nemo, the character Dory sings, “Just keep swimming.” For fish who take in oxygen through their gills, this is very similar to reminding someone to breathe. It’s also a clever way of telling someone to keep going, and pressing forward. Today I remind myself, and all of you,  to just keep breathing. Breathing mindfully is one of the fastest and easiest ways to reduce anxiety, and increase the ability to press forward in the face of obstacles.

It’s so effective, even my husband appreciates mindful breathing exercises!

My husband and I have differing perspectives on personal development. I love personal development, and I’m always learning and applying new techniques. My husband thinks personal development is a bunch of (I’m paraphrasing a little, but you get the idea) “rah-rah cheerleader, think-positive BS” that has no real-world value to anyone except the guru.

However, my husband loves, and finds immense value, in simple breathing exercises. I’ve coached him through some anxiety attacks, and he let me know that of everything I’ve learned and shared on my personal development journey, it is the mindful breathing exercises that he finds most helpful and effective. Now my husband knows how the quality of our breathing directly relates to, and influences, his emotional state because he’s experienced it for himself.

When we are scared, or stressed, our breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. However, when we are relaxed, our breathing is slower and deeper. We can deliberately relax by consciously slowing and deepening our breathing. 3-6 deep breaths is all it takes to trigger the relaxation response.

In spite of not being “into personal development,” my husband always supports me. Recently, I was learning about how our external and internal environments intersect and influence each other. I decided to clean and declutter, and my husband rolled up his sleeves and slugged through it with me. Yes, I won the husband lottery.

Last weekend, while cleaning and decluttering, my husband and I lifted a couch, and he pulled (re-injured, I should say) a muscle in his side. He was still sore this weekend, so I reminded him to do some of the stretches the chiropractor showed him.

I noticed while he stretching that he was pushing very hard, overextending a little, like he was trying to do every stretch for a week in one move. He was holding his breath, and grimacing in pain. My sweetheart was going to do even more damage to himself if he kept that up!

I drew his attention to the way he was holding his breath. I reminded him about how breathing exercises had helped him in the past, and I asked if he’d try an experiment with me. He agreed (muahahaha! – kidding, sort of.)

I had my husband stretch again, this time calling attention to his breathing and his posture. I reminded him that it’s better to stretch gently more often, than to go straight for maximum extension and reaggravate an already reaggravated injury. This was an example of a proper stretch, just so he could get the feel of it.

The next time, I had my husband hold his breath and stretch. His face scrunched with discomfort again.

“Oh,” He said. I nodded.

Along with our mental state, breathing also influences our physical bodies. If we stretch or exercise without breathing properly, then we will injure ourselves. However, if we breathe properly while we stretch, then our range of motion is increased, and our pain is reduced.

We then did some more proper, gentle stretching. We paid attention to breathing and posture, and the benefit was much greater. My husband was amazed what a difference proper breathing made! It makes perfect sense because breathing carries oxygen to fatigued, or sore muscles.

“I don’t really think about my breathing,” my husband confessed.

Breathing is something our bodies do without our conscious effort. We have so many demands on our attention and time every minute of the day that taking the time to focus on breathing doesn’t seem very necessary. After all, our bodies breathe automatically.

However, just because we don’t need to think of something doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be good for us. Paying attention to the movement of air into, and out of our bodies is insanely beneficial.

Mentally, physically, emotionally, breathing is our anchor to the present moment. Breathing is always happening in the moment, now, so it brings awareness to the present. Present moment awareness quiets mental chatter. This helps calm anxiety, or worries about the future or past.

I encourage everyone to just keep breathing. Literally everything else follows. 

Try this mindful breathing exercise right now:

  • sit or lie down comfortably wherever you are. The fabulous thing about mindful breathing exercises is that you can do them anywhere anytime because you are always breathing!
  • Notice the movement of air into and out of your body.
  • Feel it. Hear it. See it.
  • Notice the temperature cooler on the inhale, and warmer on the exhale.
  • See and feel the rise and fall of your chest, shoulders and abdomen.
  • Notice the sensations in our body without trying to change them.

Simply by noticing and bringing awareness to your breathing, it will naturally stabilize into a gentler rhythm. You don’t need to try to slow and deepen your breathing for this exercise. Simply noticing and bringing your awareness to your breathing for a minute or two will give you the benefits. Remember you can do this anywhere and anytime!

Anytime you face a difficult situation, physically, mentally, or emotionally, bringing awareness to your breath anchors you in the present moment. Focusing on the breathing provides a focal point away from your problems. The present moment focus gives you a bit of mental space, so that you can deal with whatever situation you’re facing in a calmer, and more resourceful manner.

Remember my friends, you got this! Just keep breathing!

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