The next iteration of our “Breathe Better” series involves reflection.
In #286, we discussed the idea of “control” with the idea that:
“The hard truth is many of us don’t even stop to think about how stressed we are because we don’t afford ourselves enough space to even consider it. It is our fault, and can be blamed on no one else. This is the first step in taking agency over our mindset. This is not to say we can avoid all of the stressors in our lives; to the contrary, many things we cannot control. It is our response to these stressors, however, that dictates the habit of managing our stress.”
Reflection, defined by consideration of our past rather than a focus on our future, is simply a quick break from trying to do more and instead celebrate or attempt to understand what we’ve already done, with the goal of doing better. We can choose to focus on the good, the optimistic, and the jobs well done. We can choose to pull lessons from the failures or hardships and move forward with better insight. We can choose to be grateful.
You might find that it’s difficult to do so with the heaviness of the world right now. Our mission will always be to add to the good in the world, both in action and in thought, because it doesn’t need more negativity and pessimism. We don’t have to be blind to the bad or negligent to its dangers to also recognize its goodness.
Here are the three practical exercises we will practice for this week:
3 Practical Exercises
(Note: the “protocol” for each breathing exercise will be displayed with a notation like the following — “#-#-#-#” is “Inhale-Pause-Exhale-Pause”, meaning a “1-0-2-0” protocol would be a 1-second inhale, no pause, a 2-second exhale, no pause)
Balanced Breathing (4-0-4-0)
This breathing strategy will help put you in a balanced state. The ratio of inhale to exhale is equal. Try a 4-count balanced breathing session, which looks like 4-0-4-0. You’ll feel even keel and calm afterwards. It’s great for taking on a stressful task, or simply taking a break from your day to reset. Try to set a five minute timer.
Gratitude Reflection (n/a)
This meditation is about you choosing to focus on the good, especially in your own life. We have just finished February, and it’s a great time to look back at what we accomplished. Set a 15-minute timer, and simply reflect back on your month; what went well? What did you achieve? What moments can you pick out that you’re grateful for? It could be a warm cup of coffee, a special smile from your child, a big moment at work, buying the groceries for the person behind you in line, a favor someone did for you, or good news you received. There are no boundaries here. If you’re having a hard time reflecting back, just focus on today. Breathe naturally and slowly during this meditation (there is no specific notation).
Triangle Breathing (4-4-4-0)
Triangle breathing is similar to the balanced breathing exercise above, but it adds a breath hold between inhale and exhale (or, vice versa — you could also practice a 4044). Think of this breath hold as the “reflection” period between actions (your inhales and exhales). It forces us to slow down and take a break between in and out, allowing our mind a quick sense of peace. Let this breath hold be “gentle” (hold your breath lightly rather than forcing your nasal passage shut — if you feel your abs squeeze, too much!). Try to set a five minute timer.
Feel Balanced & Calm
These strategies all aim to help us feel balanced and calm, which is an ideal state for reflection. The gratitude reflection is an amazing daily practice, but it can also be used at the end of a week, month, quarter, or year. The addition of these three exercises will hopefully build your toolbox, allowing you to pull out the right one that works best for you when you need it most.