Breathing Exercises

This 5 Minute Breath Awareness Meditation Can Reduce Your Daily Stress

By Krystal Childrey | Posted: August 07, 2020

Finding a balance between family, work, and personal obligations can be a constant challenge, leaving you overwhelmed and in a continuous state of worry. Around 80% of Americans say they frequently or sometimes experience daily stress, while only 20% rarely or never do. While everyone experiences stress differently, the symptoms typically manifest into negative thought patterns, emotions, and a general feeling of fear or unease.

While it's easy to get trapped in an endless cycle of battling your thoughts, fortunately, there's a simple way to break the cycle, and the best part is that it only requires a few minutes out of your busy day. By tuning into your breath through breath awareness meditation, you can regain control over your life and start experiencing immense feelings of stillness, calm, and relaxation throughout the mind and body.

How does stress affect the mind and body?

If you've ever been late to work or had to present at an important conference, you've most likely experienced the body's reaction to stress. Your heart rate starts to rise, your mind races, and your muscles begin to tense. This reaction is known as the "flight or fight" response, and it kicks in when the nervous system detects a threat from its external environment.

Unfortunately, the nervous system isn't able to recognize the difference between a real or perceived threat. If the body suspects danger, the nervous system releases stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, resulting in increased alertness and the bodily sensations you feel. You may also experience symptoms such as:

  • Headaches

  • Chest pain

  • Sudden changes in mood 

  • Problems with digestion

  • Difficulty thinking clearly

  • Changes in regular sleep patterns

While everyone experiences occasional stress, stress can compound over time if its triggers aren't identified and adequately addressed. Unresolved stress can lead to severe physical and mental health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, depression, or anxiety. However, through just 5 minutes of breath awareness meditation, you can bring awareness to the present moment and stop stress in its tracks.

How can breath awareness meditation reduce stress?

The ancient art of yoga has been around for thousands of years, and yogis have long known that the secret to a long, healthy life lies in the breath. The breath is easily accessible, and anyone can take advantage of its many benefits. One of the simplest ways to reduce your stress is by implementing a mindfulness meditation practice.

Breath awareness meditation, a form of mindfulness meditation, involves training the mind to focus on the present moment without judging or altering your experience. Through consistent practice, the practice can create clarity, calm, and relaxation to tackle life's biggest challenges. The Art of Living's guided meditation practice, SKY Breath MeditationTM, shows benefits above and beyond a traditional mindfulness meditation practice. Recent research from Yale University shows the profound impacts of SKY on your health, including:

  • Reduced levels of stress, anxiety, and depression

  • Increased feelings of social connectedness

  • An increase in positive feelings and emotions

  • Greater mindfulness or awareness to the present moment

During breath awareness meditation, your attention is placed on the breath's full inhalation and exhalation cycle, which is a great way to get into a deeper state of meditation. The simple act of observing the breath creates an openness to inner experiences that often goes unnoticed in day-to-day life. The breath gives clues into where stress is stored in the body and provides an outlet to release this tension.

Over time, you become more aware of your breathing patterns, and the breath provides space to respond to life's challenges with clarity and confidence, rather than from a place of insecurity and fear. In addition to reducing stress levels, there's a sense of empowerment to get rid of things that no longer serve you.

A 5-minute breath awareness meditation to reduce daily stress

One of the most common reasons for skipping out on meditation is thinking you don't have time to fit a regular practice into your schedule. However, in only 5 minutes a day, you can start reaping the benefits of a mindful breathing practice, and anyone can find an additional 5 minutes in their day, even if it means waking up earlier. Here's a simple breath awareness meditation to begin implementing into your daily routine.

Step 1 - Find a comfortable position

Sit on a chair with the feet planted firmly on the floor or find a comfortable place seated on the floor. In either case, make sure your spine is long, and you're sitting up straight. An upright posture connects your awareness with the present moment.

Ideally, you want to create stillness in the body, which will result in a calm mind. However, as a beginner, you might notice yourself needing to shift your body position during the meditation practice. If you must move, gently make the shift, and place your attention right back on the breath. 

Step 2 - Close your eyes and observe the natural rhythm of the breath

Once you've found a comfortable position, close your eyes. Place your attention on the breath as it moves in and out of the nostrils. As you inhale and exhale, notice the natural rhythm of the breath. Are your breaths smooth or uneven? Deep or shallow? 

Stay in this place for a couple of minutes, just observing the breath as it is. Don't try to control or modify it. Just let it flow naturally.

Step 3 - If you notice your mind wandering, bring it back to the breath

You will probably notice your mind wandering a lot, especially if you're new to meditation. Try to observe any thoughts that arise without judgment. 

Acknowledge the thought, and bring the attention right back to the breath. As your meditation practice becomes more consistent, the mind-wandering will subside.

Step 4 - Explore the flow of the breath in different areas of the body

If you're struggling to keep your monkey mind at bay, spend the rest of the session continuing to observe the breath through the nostrils. Notice how it feels to accept your thoughts without judgment, bringing the attention back to the breath each time you notice a distraction.

Once you get the hang of returning to your breath, you can try a body scan. A great place to start is noticing how the breath fills the belly, then moving to the chest, and then to the throat. As you observe, notice any bodily sensation, tension, or resistance you might be holding in a particular area.

Step 5 - Bring your awareness back to the room 

At the end of the 5 minutes, bring your awareness back to your body. Slowly become aware of the room you're in, and notice any sounds coming from the external environment. Rest in this place for at least 30 seconds, but take as long as you need to re-adjust. Open your eyes when you are ready, and take a moment to reflect on how your mind and body feel.

The end of a session can also be a great time to journal about your breath meditation as you're more alert and in tune with your senses. See what emotion comes up for you, and notice how the experience differs over time.

Remember that meditation is a skill, and just like any other skill, it takes consistency and practice to master. Be kind to yourself, stay consistent, and acknowledge wherever you are in your journey. It can be tempting to judge your experience based on others' experiences or even your own previous experience, but it's important to go into each session with an open mind. Each experience will be unique, but what matters most is that you're creating space for yourself to manage your daily stress and improve your overall well-being. 

Curious about Art of Living’s SKY Breath MeditationTM? Learn more at this free online session on breath & meditation, Beyond Breath, with a live instructor- the easiest way to achieve a breath awareness meditation experience!

Krystal Childrey is a health and wellness copywriter located in Seattle, WA. She is a registered yoga teacher, mental health advocate, and member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). When she’s not writing or practicing yoga, she enjoys day hiking across the Pacific Northwest. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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