What is the first thing that you do after you are born? Breathe. Your lungs fill with oxygen. For the rest of your life, you have to breathe to live. Our bodies need oxygen to make our engine work.
When my children get upset or frustrated the first thing that I try to do is get them to breathe. I look at them on eye level and say, “Take a breath.” They know what that means. It means to breathe with daddy. Inhale through your nose as much air as you can, and then exhale through your mouth all that air. We do this three times together. In and out. After we are finished, I ask them to tell me what their dilemma is.
It is something so simple, so easy, and so natural that many of us forget that we are doing it. Breathing. We all have to breathe to live. The oxygen fills our lungs and helps our body to function. It increases blood flow through the body and especially to our minds. We remember the story better. We find details that we lost. We see the picture more clearly.
Breathing helps us to think better.
Yet this important step is sometimes lost in our efforts to think faster. We don’t take a moment to breathe before we act. Just being intentional about your breathing helps the information flow. It gives the brain much-needed oxygen and a moment to pause. When I am about to undertake something important the first thing I do is sit down in a chair and take a few moments to breathe. It clears my mind and opens up my creative space.
Breathing helps us to feel better.
I was hiking up the side of a mountain and I noticed that I started feeling nauseous. My chest was a little tight. I sat down on a rock, drank some water, and took three deep measured breaths. My head cleared. My stomach felt better. My lungs were full again. I had to pause on the journey to breathe before I could continue on. After I made it up the rest of the way, I turned and looked back at that spot where I paused. It was about halfway up. Without taking a moment to breathe, I wouldn’t have finished the climb.
Breathing helps us to live better.
One summer I took lessons in kettlebell strength training. For the first four lessons, we didn’t even touch a kettlebell. I was starting to get anxious. Why am I paying for kettlebell training when we don’t actually use the kettlebells? Instead, we learned intentional body movements set to breathing. We learned when to inhale and when to exhale. Session after session we worked on breathing and movement. Finally, the instructor got out the kettlebells. Only then did I realize that he wanted us to have the right breathing and the right movement before adding weight. It was the movement and the breathing that made the kettlebell movements more powerful and more effective. Breathing makes everything you do better. Ask a competitive shooter and they will talk to you about breath control. Ask a swimmer and they will tell you about breathing exercises.
Want to try something to help you lead more mindfully? Before you make your next big decision take three intentional breaths. Slowly inhale and slowly exhale. Three times. Try this with your next few decisions.