11 Jan 2022

Mindfulness techniques can be very beneficial for coping with stress, anxiety, and many other areas of concern. Sometimes, when I bring up breathing with a client, I get a heavy sigh and a comment that it does not work. What I have come to realize is often people think about focused breathing as something that is done deeply and quickly, breathing in and out of their mouths. 

Focused deep breathing can be challenging to do correctly unless you have practiced it. Often, I ask clients to take a slow and steady breath in through their nose, and out through their mouth like they are blowing through a tiny little coffee straw. You can do this to a count of 4 or 6, or you can practice this through using the visualization of the square breath. The square breath is a simple and effective technique that can be used just about anywhere. If you look this up on YouTube, you can find some examples of what this looks like. When you practice it, try to think about breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth as stated above. See if this changes anything for you. 

Mindfulness is more than just deep breathing. There are many techniques you can learn to add to your toolbox of coping skills when you are feeling anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed. Progressive muscle relaxation is one that can help relieve physical tension in your body and help you relax. This is done through systematically tightening and releasing muscle groups in your body. 

Yoga and stretches can aid in physical and mental health and help bring a sense of calm to your body. If you notice tension in your shoulders, try some stretches that can aid in helping you feel more comfortable. 

Sometimes when life gets overwhelming, it can be easy to only see the hard things that are happening. Making a daily gratitude list can help you be mindful of the things that are going well in everyday life. Doing it daily can also challenge you to look beyond the surface and really dig into the things you are grateful for. 

Going for a mindful walk can be beneficial as well. In doing this, you can observe what you are seeing on your walk, naming some of the things you are seeing, and even describing them in detail. For instance, instead of “I see a tree over there,” try “the tree has a big, dark brown trunk with roots that span all the way to the sidewalk. The leaves are a deep shade of green, about the size of my hand. The sun shines through the leaves, a warm orange/yellow glow.”

There are many ways to practice mindfulness, and it can be incorporated into many daily activities. If you have questions about mindfulness practices, reach out to your therapist. They can help you find the activities and techniques that best fit your needs and lifestyle.

Ali Cooper


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