The 3 Minute Breathing Space is a fundamental part of all mindfulness programs. It trains us to step out of the auto-pilot mode we spend so much of our time in, and see where we are at inside.
Checking in with our internal weather in this way opens up the opportunity to make adjustments as necessary. If we find we are stuck in thoughts of the past, or worries about the future, we can reconnect with the present moment. If we find some areas of the body are holding tension, we can invite the breath to relax those areas.
Set a reminder on your phone or smart watch to pause for a 3 Step Breathing Space at least 3 times a day, and if you feel a strong emotion, see if you can remember to use the practice.
Step 1 - Become aware of your inner experience in this moment.
What thoughts are in your mind? As best you can, see them as mental events, don't get involved with them. Label them, 'thinking'.
What feelings are present? Acknowledge whatever is present, and if it's unpleasant, try to turn toward it, and not away.
What sensations are in the body? Quickly scan the body to see what you notice, are there any sensations of tightness or contraction?
Step 2 - Focus your attention on the breath at the abdomen.
As best you can, focus on the sensations in the abdomen as it rises and falls with the breath. Remain here for at least three full breaths. If the mind wanders, gently and kindly bring it back to the breath.
Step 3 - Expand the attention to the body as a whole. Expand the attention again to include the body in the room and any sensations of touch or pressure on your chair or the floor. Gradually begin to open your attention to sounds in the room, the feeling of the air around you, and when you're ready, open the eyes and continue with your day.
"The breathing space sets us up to encounter life in a different frame of mind, coming fully home to the present, rather than just giving ourselves a break from thinking." - Teasdale, Williams, & Segal
The average person has 48.6 thoughts per minute, most of these are an analysis or running commentary on what is happening in each moment.
Our thoughts colour the facts of a situation–whatever is happening in the world can be made better or worse by the thoughts we have about it.
An example I can give from my work with clients is when someone is experiencing a depression or anxiety, a common thought can be: "There's something wrong with me, if I was normal I wouldn't be having this anxiety!". Imagine how much worse this thought makes the person feel.
Even in small situations like the person in front of you at the coffee shop nabbing the last scone–you might be tempted to say to yourself "Oh that's typical, I never have any luck" - take a moment to see how it feels to tell yourself that. It doesn't make you feel good, does it?
What helps is to become more aware of what stories you're telling yourself during the day, here's a short practice to do several times a day to help:
"It's amazing to observe how much power we give unknowingly to uninvited thoughts: 'Do this, say that, remember, plan obsess, judge.' They have the potential to drive us quite crazy, and they often do!" - Joseph Goldstein
When you notice yourself getting caught up in your thoughts or emotions, pause for a minute, and take a couple of belly breaths, then:
You just moved out of story and emotion, and made contact with what is actually here right now. This practice is grounding and calming, and a nice reminder that right here, right now, everything is ok.
"Awaken to the mystery of being here and enter the quiet immensity of your own presence."
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing proven tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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