During the Tai Chi workshop at the COPE House last month our instructor, Linda, suggested that we follow our breath as we would follow a dance partner; let the breath lead us through the movements. Bringing awareness to the depth and rhythm of breathing was both energizing and tension releasing at the same time.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells us to “Smile, breathe and go slowly.”

We may often take the simple act of breathing for granted. Sure, we know that without it we would not live. But it is one of those things that happens unconsciously, automatically as we go about our lives without any need to pay attention to it. But all kinds of good things can happen when we pay attention to our breath.

All you need to do is slow down or stop. If you are walking, walk slower, if you are sitting then stop what you are doing and Breathe. Breathe in and out through your nose. The breaths you take do not have to be very deep but deeper than your regular breaths. Focus. On just the breaths you are taking.

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

That’s it. Try to do this a few times a day. I have a reminder on my phone that makes a chime every so often and I stop and breathe. There are apps that can help you remember. Or maybe you just have a good memory.

Here are some of the benefits of this kind of mindful breathing:

  1. Stopping to breathe can help you find or regain focus when working on something.
  2. Reduce nervousness in social situations.
  3. Calm down before you say something you don’t really mean.
  4. Truly listen and be here.
  5. Go to sleep or return to sleep if you wake up too early.
  6. Appreciate the little things around you in life.
  7. Let go of overwhelming situations in life.

So if you feel overwhelmed during your day breathe deeply and focus only on that for a minute or two. It can be a more helpful choice than escaping onto Facebook and getting lost in procrastination. Your breath can become a terrific partner.