Focusing on breathing is an excellent way to bring your awareness into the present moment and become more mindful.
In this post, we’ll talk about what mindfulness is, how to focus on the breath, what the benefits are, and 3 simple tips to help you with your practice.
So, let’s get started by reviewing what mindfulness is. It’s one of those concepts that isn’t concrete, which makes it more difficult to define, but not impossible.
What Is Mindfulness?
Some spiritual teachers don’t like the word “mindful” because it conjures up images of the mind being full, which is what you want to avoid.
However, it’s still a commonly used word when referring to the state of being more aware and focused on the present moment.
Merriam-Webster says that mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
In simpler terms, to be mindful means to be conscious of your thoughts, yourself, your surroundings, and what is happening at any given time.
People desire to be in this state because it is said to bring an end to suffering and promote feelings of peace and joy.
The calmness of being more aware is brought about because you’re centered on what is happening right now. You’re not fretting about the past or worrying about the future, which is what causes most suffering.
The question becomes, how to get your focus on the present and maintain it there. Using your natural breathing is one way to accomplish this.
How to Focus on Breathing for Mindfulness
One of the simplest ways to become mindful is to use the natural rhythm of your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs.
Anyone can do this exercise just about anywhere. You don’t need special equipment, clothing, or setting. And, you don’t need to master any complicated techniques.
While it’s true you don’t need to be in a special place to focus on your breathing, it may be helpful in the beginning if you choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
As you practice more, you’ll find you can do this pretty much anywhere.
The exercise is simple. You just turn your attention to your typical in and out-breathing. You don’t have to breathe deeply or in any special way, just notice the feeling of each breath as you take it in and release it.
If you feel tense at the start, you can take a couple of deeper breaths to encourage relaxation and calmness.
As you maintain your focus on your breathing, you’ll find that you aren’t thinking. However, in the beginning, you may find that your attention wanders and stray thoughts pop up in your mind.
The trick is to gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Don’t resist the thoughts that occur or fight your wandering attention. It’s common for that to happen a lot when you first begin this type of mindfulness activity.
As you practice more and more, you’ll find you spend longer with your full focus on your breathing, and the calming effect increases. Without a constant parade of disruptive thoughts going through your mind, you’ll achieve greater peace and natural joy.
Why Is Mindfulness Beneficial
You might be thinking at this point, it’s all well and good to sit and focus on breathing, but what’s the benefit of doing that?
According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness has been shown to benefit with:
- Fewer depressive symptoms
- Decreased stress
- Increased working memory capacity
- Longer attention span
- Less emotional reactivity
- Greater cognitive flexibility
- Better relationships
- Numerous physical health benefits
These are all excellent reasons to start and maintain a mindfulness practice. And, the beauty is, you don’t have to stick to one form such as breathing awareness. You can use any method that suits you, such as:
- Drinking tea
- Eating mindfully
- Mindful walking
You can also mix up your activities at different times of the day, depending on whatever suits your schedule.
The point of any mindfulness practice is to develop the habit of being in the present moment as much as possible throughout the day.
The more you can stay alert and conscious, the greater the psychological and physical benefits you’ll experience, which equals less suffering.
3 Simple Tips for Focusing on Breathing
Here are 3 tips to help you on your way with focusing on breathing for more awareness:
1. Start in a Quiet Place and Alone
When you start out, it might be easier if you choose a quiet place to be alone. The fewer distractions there are, the faster you’ll become at ease with the activity.
As you become able to switch to focusing on your breathing with more ease, you can try out a variety of settings.
2. Don’t Stress Over Stray Thoughts
Your mind is going to wander, so don’t get yourself worked up about it. The point is not to banish all thoughts forcefully; it’s to become aware of them and let them release naturally on their own.
So, when a thought intrudes, look at it without judgment and gently move your attention back to your breathing. Eventually, you’ll go for long periods without thinking.
3. Don’t Force the Time Limit
You’ll naturally find you can stay with this practice more and more as you do it consistently. Try to make time for it each day, but don’t force the duration.
The amount of time you spend focused on your breath will increase naturally as you progress. So, in the beginning, if you feel uncomfortable, leave it, and move on. Forcing it will just lead to frustration and the potential for quitting.
Use this information and 3 tips to focus on your breathing in a natural and calming way to become more conscious and aware during your daily activities.