My clients have often said it is helpful to have their therapist (me) guide them through a mindful breathing exercise, but since they see me once a week and ideally should be engaging in this grounding practice more often than that, I thought it might be helpful to have a guide here on our blog! (Scroll down to the guide to get right to practicing or even follow the links at the bottom to listen along to a guided practice.)
Grounding is an important part of treatment across anxiety, trauma, and other life-stress concerns that my clients bring into therapy. Grounding is a tool that helps clients relax, self-soothe, and engage with their logical brain instead of feeling overwhelmed or even paralyzed by their emotional brain. Although there are many tools you can use for grounding, one key strategy is mindful breathing.
Mindful breathing requires three parts:
- Awareness of your feet on the floor and the sensations in your body.
- Noticing your breath and slowing it down to a deep inhale for about 4 seconds and an exhale for about 6 seconds.
- Non-judgmental acceptance of any thoughts that inevitably pop into your head, allowing them to pass as they come, and returning focus to the breath and body in THIS moment.
Here is a guide you can follow along at home to get into the swing of things:
Begin with your feet on the ground, noticing the sensations there. Notice the texture of the floor beneath you, the temperature, possibly any tension in your feet, how your feet feel against the socks/shoes/breeze around them, and anything else.
Keeping this awareness of your feet on the floor in mind, move up to where you are seated comfortably. Feel your weight sinking down into your seat. Feel the contact beneath your bottom, your legs, and behind your back. Notice the pressure that is created by your body being supported. Bring attention to how the fabric feels in the clothes you are wearing or from the chair/pillows/anything else you can feel. Notice any parts of your body that feel tense and maybe need to be rolled out or squeezed and released to feel more relaxed. Go ahead and do that now.
Keeping awareness of your body and any sensations you notice in mind, move your focus to your breath. Just notice it. Where are you breathing into? Your belly? Your chest? Somewhere else? Notice the speed of the breath without trying to change it. Just pay close attention. What temperature is your breath as you breathe in? Does it change as you breathe out?
If any thoughts come to mind, that is ok. Allow them to come to mind without trying to fight them or letting them take your focus away from your breath. If it is helpful, you can imagine a scenic pond in as much detail as you can. As a thought comes to mind, imagine it on a bird flying over the pond. The pond (you) can see the bird’s reflection as it passes over, but the pond (you) does not hold onto the bird (thought) after it has passed. Return your focus to your breath whenever you notice your mind starts to wander. Do not judge yourself or your thoughts. Just return focus to your breath by remaining mindful.
Now use this focus to start controlling and slowing down your breath.
Using the lower part of your belly right below your belly button, draw in a deep breath so your belly button pushes out. You can even place a hand on your belly to feel it push out as you breathe in and push all the way back in towards your spine as you exhale deeply. Add a slow count of 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 as you inhale using the lower part of your belly, hold it in for one second if that feels helpful, then exhale for a slow count of 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6. Again inhale the belly outward for 1 – 2 – 3 – 4, hold for one second if that feels relaxing, and exhale slowly for 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6. A few more rounds breathe in for 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 and out for 1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6. Again. You count. When you are ready, take one last deep breath, the deepest breath you can, and exhale as slowly as you can.
Notice your body. Notice your feet on the ground, your heart beat, your breath as you no longer try to control it, any points of tension that may need to be rolled out or squeezed and relaxed to release the tension again. Notice any other sensations or feelings in this moment. Perhaps notice anything you need to do for yourself at this moment. Maybe even just putting your hand on your heart and saying “This time is important” or “I am important” or anything else you can say to give yourself just a moment of self-compassion.
You did it! You rock!
Here is a guided breathing exercise to listen to on YouTube. Look around to find a guide you like best and send it our way so we can try it too.
Visit HTC on Instagram to watch a video of me guiding you through this exercise as well.
And of course if you are new to this page or want more, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 816-592-0624. We would love to set up an appointment with you to hear more about your story, help you reach a feeling of relief and stabilization, and work with you to explore your values and goals. #betterconnected
As always, take care and keep breathing!