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CONSCIOUS BREATHING

CONSCIOUS BREATHING &/OR BELLY BREATHING

A first step in mindfulness training is to become more aware of how you breathe. Try an experiment. Put one hand on your chest and another on your belly. Without manipulating your breath, notice which hand is moving more. Take a few moments to observe this while breathing normally. If the top hand moves more it indicates you are more of a chest breather.


Chest breathing is often associated with heightened anxiety and stress. In its extreme form you might actually be panting, as in rapid shallow breaths which are an indication that the fight, flight or freeze response is being activated. Often this crisis response is activated when we are not in any real physical danger but instead are reacting to some psychological stress. It is not helpful for resolving psychological stress or interpersonal conflict and may in fact make things worse. This is because thinking goes offline when the crisis response is activated. The priority for the crisis response is to prepare you to fight, take flight or freeze in the face of physical danger and not to pause and think things through.


Now take several slow, easy, deep breaths down to your belly and make the bottom hand move. Notice the difference between chest breathing and belly breathing. It may feel slightly uncomfortable at first if you are not used to breathing in this way. Breathing deeply and down to the belly for 3 to 5 minutes

is associated with the relaxation response.

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