The term "Mindfulness" seems to be everywhere I look now. From exercise magazines, to health brochures, to TV shows, to mental health publications. What exactly is Mindfulness though? According to Donald Altman, M.A., L.P.C., "Mindfulness awareness invites a very different kind of awareness, one that dramatically alters our experience. . . This new experience breaks old mindsets and maladaptive coping mechanisms, as well as rewires the brain's neural pathways."
I am utterly fascinated by mindfulness therapy. Being able to give someone the tools that are relatively easy to incorporate into their every day lives to relieve their anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma is gratifying as a therapist.
So how are some ways that you can incorporate Mindfulness into your every day life? Start with this simple belly breathing exercise:
First, we need to determine if you breathe from your chest or from your stomach:
*Sit up straight in a chair in a comfortable posture
*Place one palm on your stomach and one hand on your chest
*Take some normal breaths and determine which hand is moving. Is it the hand on your stomach or the hand on your chest? If the hand on your chest or both hands are moving then you are a chest breather. If the hand on your stomach moved, then you are a belly breather. The goal is for you to breathe from your stomach to ensure you are getting a fuller breath. If you are a chest breather, you are taking shorter, faster breaths. By getting air in the deeper part of the lungs, you will be able to pull in ten times more air.
*Once you feel comfortable breathing from your stomach, try practicing deep breathing for 1-2 minutes at a time, three times a day.
You may be asking yourself why you need to work on breathing? After all, isn't breathing something completely normal that everyone already does? When you practice regular deep breathing, you can experience the following benefits:
*Lower blood pressure and pulse rate
*Lactate can be cleansed from the blood. Too much lactate can increase feelings of anxiety.
*Increases calm and alert brain waves
*Releases serotonin. Most serotonin is found in the stomach lining and intestines. Deep breathing releases serotonin into the blood stream and up to the brain.
(Source: The Mindfulness Toolbox, by Donald Altman, M.A., L.P.C.)
There are many ways to continue to practice this exercise. If you are interested in taking this to the next level of relaxation and mindfulness, consider joining a local meditation group. In Sacramento there is a group called Midtown Meditation, Mindfulness and Support Group and more information on the group can be found at: