3 Breathing Exercises To Help You Focus, Think Creatively, And Enjoy Life
Being able to steady your thoughts is a hugely valuable life skill. Breathing exercises are an integral part of that skill.
Professionally, I’m paid to think deep thoughts, strategize, organize, and write creatively. It’s how I pay my mortgage and put my kids through university. So I’m pretty disciplined when it comes to keeping my brain sharp.
I do breathing exercises every day because the world is a busy place, overflowing with distractions and stressors. Practicing deep breathing helps me stay calm, creative, and productive.
If you want to read more on the science behind deep breathing, check out How Slow Deep Breathing Results in Positive Emotions and More Creativity.
I have 3 Go-To breathing exercises. Each serves a specific purpose.
During the workday, I have one exercise that helps me let go of negative, distracting feelings, like annoyance and impatience. And I have another that improves my concentration.
At night, I have a slightly longer breathing exercise that lets me take my foot off the gas and relax.
Here they are. Hope you find them helpful.
Feeling frustrated? Or annoyed? Or pressured?
Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body. – Thich Nhat Hanh
Pursed lip breathing is the fastest way I know to clear your head and reset your thinking. Like when you have a difficult conversation and need to let it go, so you can move on with your day.
- Close your eyes and get comfortable in your chair.
- Inhale slowly through your nose for at least the count of two. Let your belly get bigger as you breathe in.
- Pucker your lips, like you’re going to whistle, but instead…
- Exhale slowly through your pursed lips for at least the count of four. The secret is to exhale normally. Don’t force the air out too quickly. Give it enough time to push those negative thoughts out!
Want to think DEEPER?
Deep breathing brings deep thinking and shallow breathing brings shallow thinking. – Elsie Lincoln Benedict
When I need to SHARPEN my thinking, I use box breathing. This is a type of paced breathing that draws your attention inward.
Box breathing was popularized by Navy SEALS who used it to increase concentration and enhance alertness. It’s somewhat different from other types of breath work because all the ratios are 1-1-1-1.
- Close your eyes and exhale to a count of four.
- Hold your lungs empty for a count of four.
- Inhale to a count of four.
- Hold the air in your lungs for a count of four.
- Repeat this sequence for a minute or two. That’s usually enough time to power UP your concentration.
As I do this exercise, I imagine myself tracing a square – moving to the right, then down, then to the left, and then up. I feel purposeful and in control.
Can’t stop thinking?
Conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation. – Dan Brule
Monkey-mind is a huge issue for me!
As I’m working, my thoughts gain so much momentum that it becomes hard to slow my brain down and relax.
If I can’t get my monkey-mind under control by bedtime, my sleep gets messed up and I spend the next day as a cranky, unproductive toddler.
When I need help putting the brakes on my imagination, I do what I call the 10-For-Zen. As the nickname implies, this requires 10 minutes, so it can be helpful to set a timer. Otherwise, that monkey mind can interrupt the process by fretting about how long you’ve been at it.
Note: Feel free to stretch out on your sofa for this exercise, if you like. But I prefer to lie on my bed so if I fall asleep I’m already where I need to be for a lovely, restful night!
- Close your eyes and gently breathe in through your nose (mouth closed) for a count of six seconds.
- Now exhale, slowly and gently, allowing your breath to leave your body without forcing it.
- Focus on the process: IN 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… and OUT 1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6…
- When the 10 minutes are complete, don’t jump up. Open your eyes slowly and appreciate the quiet. Or fall asleep until morning. No judgement.
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