8 Steps to a 5 Minute Mindful Breathing Exercise

Meditation

Trigger Warning: If you’ve had a history of trauma, and are prone to flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or are actively experiencing PTSD, this process may set off some of those experiences, which can reactivate feelings of the trauma. There are other mindfulness exercises that involve more grounding that may be a better fit for you, and you may want to skip this exercise.


Please read through all of the instructions before you begin.

  1. Get in a comfortable position. This exercise can be done, sitting, laying, or standing if you wish.
  2. Set a timer for 5 minutes.
  3. Invite your eyes to rest.
  4. Breathe in through the nose (if you can’t breathe through your nose the mouth makes an excellent substitute), out through the mouth, practicing diaphragmatic breathing. In order to practice diaphragmatic breathing,
    1. Inhale deep into the belly, then the chest; invite your belly to expand and the ribcage to open as you inhale.
    2. Exhale out through the mouth, at a pace that is comfortable for you, bringing the belly in towards your spine.
    3. If you find it is difficult to breathe deep into the lungs you may consider resting your hands on top of your head, as this will open up the ribcage and make it easier to breathe deep.
  5. Focus on the breath like a curious observer. Notice the coolness of the inhale, the warmth of the exhale. Notice how the chest rises and falls, and how the air flows through your windpipe.
  6. As you go through this process, you may notice that your mindbody wanting to attend to different sensations, thoughts, or feelings. Perhaps you feel the urge to scratch an itch, or begin planning your to-do list is for tomorrow, or feel bored of this moment attending to the breath. Push nothing away and attach to nothing.
  7. Any time you notice a thought or a feeling, label it and let it pass through your mind as though it were a log flowing down the river of your mind, and return your attention to the breath. You can tell yourself things like, “my mind is planning,” or “mind is judging,” or “body is feeling some anxiety.”
  8. When the timer goes off, take a few moments to wiggle the fingers and toes, blink open the eyes, and then return to the room.

Go ahead now and take the time to complete the exercise, then return to reading.


Was it challenging for you to just breathe and sit still? Did you notice that even though all you’re supposed to be doing is breathing that your mindbody was having thoughts and feelings? I know my mind wandered to planning, criticism and pondering. Did you notice any patterns?  This exercise can be helpful to reduce anxiety, and understand the background content of our minds. It can also be a helpful reminder that we are more than our thoughts and feelings, and we do have some control over how we interact with them. Learning to regulate our interactions with our mindbody can go a long-way to improving our overall mindbody fitness.