Breathing is something that we all do, all of the time – yet we are often not aware of how it feels in the moment. By bringing our focus intentionally onto the breath we can ground ourselves in what is happening right now. We can practice observing without reacting, experiencing each breath as it happens without feeling a need to change it.
You can do this exercise for just a few minutes, or for longer periods. Although the intention is to focus on the breath, you will begin to experience how unfocused our minds can be! You may find that your mind wanders a hundred times, or just a few. It is okay for this to happen and it doesn't mean that you are doing anything wrong. When you notice your mind has wandered, gently but firmly bring your attention back to the breath.
If you would like to follow the guidance from an audio recording then go to the Free Resources section, where you will find several free mindfulness of breath exercises. Alternatively read through the description below and then try it yourself (best to read it all before starting as if you try and do it as you read along, you'll probably end up with your eyes closed before you've read what to do next!)
Mindfulness of breath
Sit or lie in a comfortable position. You may choose to close your eyes or keep them open, if you are feeling tired it may be useful to let just a little bit of light in to keep you alert.
Begin by gently moving your attention onto the process of breathing. Notice the sensations of each breath as it happens, whether you focus on the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen, or on the feeling of the breath at the nostrils. Really feel what it is like to breath, just observing it as it happens.
As you engage in this exercise you may find that your mind wanders, caught by thoughts or by noises in the room, or bodily sensations. When you notice that this happens, know that this is okay, and simply notice the distraction but gently bring your attention back to the breath.
Ending the exercise
Take a few moments to yourself, connecting with your experience in the present moment. Expand your awareness from the breath into the space around you, and as you feel comfortable to do so, opening your eyes and bringing the exercise to a close.
Take a few moments to think about what your experience was in this exercise, and how you feel in the present moment.