By Kendra Diaz-Ford December 6, 2017

With so much chaos out in the world, busy work and school schedules, social activities, and everyday stress, it can feel overwhelming just to find time during the day to breathe.

Of course, we are breathing all the time, so there is always time to breathe. The question is: Are you focusing on your breath?

Learning to focus on the breath not only supports a state of mindfulness but also helps us learn more about our body's response to stress, our current emotional and psychological state, and how well we are breathing. As an academic adjunct with the MA in Community Mental Health program, I consider mindfulness and solid self-care part of our students' education.

As budding therapists, change agents, and learners of psychological science, students in our program receive solid clinical education and learn applied theory to work in community center settings.

One technique they learn in the first semester of the program is the clinically proven practice of mindfulness, which includes cultivating moment-to-moment awareness and equanimity. One of the ways to practice mindfulness is through awareness of the breath--it takes just five minutes, or less.

This short practice will help you become aware of your breath:

  1. Sit or lie in a relaxed position and turn your attention inward
  2. Observe the breath as it is already traveling in and out of the body--just notice.
  3. Without judgment or changing the breath in any way, see if you can locate the origin of the breath. Where does the movement of breath begin in your body? The belly? Chest?
  4. In which area of your body is the movement of your breath most noticeable?
  5. What's the quality and tempo of your breath? Notice the sensations of the breath, the regularity (or irregularity), smoothness, jumpiness, and any other sensations you notice.
  6. Take a few more breaths here, noticing and witnessing the breath.
  7. Focus on the breath for several minutes, and notice how you feel.

This practice of focusing on the breath, along with other mindfulness techniques, can provide much needed stress-relief for students, faculty, staff, and practitioners in the field of psychology. It can also become part of a healthy self-care routine, promoting overall wellness, and serving as a helpful tool for working with clients in clinical settings.

Photo of Dr. Kendra Diaz-FordKendra Diaz-Ford serves as an administrative adjunct faculty in the Community Mental Health program. She is a transpersonal research psychologist, spiritual guide, and yoga teacher who holds a PhD in Transpersonal Psychology with specializations in Education and Research, Spiritual Guidance and Women's Spirituality. When not at CIIS, she teaches at Alef Trust, works with private clients, offers weekly yoga classes, leads workshops, and annual retreats in the U.S.and Spain.

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