“You can only take a breath in the present moment; not the past and not the future.”
Mindful awareness practices often begin by paying attention to breathing. One reason for this is that the breath is the bridge between our sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous systems. Slowing our breathing is one of the best and easiest ways to help us relax. The simple act of taking deep breaths, holding them for a few seconds, and slowly releasing them can help us feel less angry, agitated, or worried.
Another reason to start your practice with the breath is because we can’t take a breath from the past or from the future. Focusing on our breathing urges us to live in the present.
Our mind may like to remind us of all our past mistakes and to imagine the horrible things that could be coming down the pike. We are more likely to find peace if we focus on where we are “in the now,” and make it the best we can.
Then take a deep breath…hold it for a few seconds…and release into the present moment.
To get some practice with this, we invite you to spend three minutes with Brandon Yabko, as he guides you through a brief breathing practice: Three Minute Breathing Space.
Do you smoke? Think about how the act of smoking uses the breath but results in the opposite of mindful breathing because it creates stress in the body. Smoking is detrimental to physical health and has a negative effect on your mental health and well-being. Check out this video to see the effects that smoking has on your mind and your mood.
VA’s free telephone quitline, 1-855-QUIT-VET (1-855-784-8838), offers tobacco cessation counseling to any Veteran who receives their health care through VA.
Marc Castellani, Ph.D., NBC-HWC, is the Whole Health Clinical Education Coordinator for the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation.