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Day One: just breathe

Welcome to the first day of our 12 Days of Mindfulness challenge.

Today I’m asking you to spend just ONE MINUTE breathing with intention.

A simple, quick and effective way to manage stress.

Deep diaphragmatic breathing (belly breathing) activates the parasympathetic nervous system and induces the relaxation response in your body which is a counter to the stress response.

Take time out of your busy day to take full deep breaths and feel your body relax.

As a psychologist, when I see someone with anxiety one of the first things I ask them to do is count how many breaths they take in one minute.

I set a timer for one minute and they count each inhale until I say stop.

Sometimes they get 12 or 14 breaths per minute (that's ok).

But more often they get 16, 18, 23, or even higher... sometimes into the 30s.

And they don't even realise their breathing is so shallow and rapid.

But whether you're conscious of it or note, that rate of breathing is absolutely affecting your mood, increasing your stress and impacting your health.

You might want to count how many breaths you take in one minute.

And if you know you're over-breathing, you can use something like this graphic to help focus your attention while you breathe, or you can breathe in for a count of 3 and out for a count of 3. That will give you 10 breaths per minute which is nice and calm and even.

And even if you're not over-breathing, simply taking a minute out of your day to bring awareness to your breath is a lovely way to connect you back to your body and the present moment.
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By the way, if you haven't heard the conversation I had with James Nestor about the science of breathing, I highly recommend you add this one to your playlist. I found his book utterly fascinating and I've had great feedback on this episode, so thought I'd mention it in case you missed it!