Breathing is something we all do, we are just not usually aware of it. But what happens if we focus on our breathing? Breathing mindfully is a way to increase awareness of the present moment. It can help us be more aware of our thoughts so that we are better able to manage them and less likely to become overwhelmed.

**What are the health benefits of breathing mindfully?**

The Mental Health Foundation supports mindfulness as a tool to help you live your life, improve general wellbeing and treat depression. Evidence shows that it can help with a number of problems, such as recurrent depression, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviour, chronic pain and many more mental and physical problems.

Mindful meditation (or "conscious breathing") is also recommended by Cancer Research UK as a popular and useful form of complementary therapy, because it can help people with cancer cope with problems such as pain, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, and nausea.

**Tips to follow when breathing mindfully**

The following simple breath-based exercise demonstrates the basic technique and takes just a few minutes. The purpose is to simply notice, accept and be aware of your breath. Each time you notice the mind daydreaming, or planning, or worrying, or whatever the mind does – that is an opportunity to bring your focus back to the present moment and the experience of breathing in and breathing out.

**1. To begin, ensure that you are sitting quietly.** Ideally aim to sit in a comfortable chair with your feet on the floor. However, if you find sitting uncomfortable, then lie on a mat or blanket on the floor or on your bed. Allow your arms and hands to be as relaxed as possible.

**2. Gently close your eyes and focus your awareness on the breath as it flows into and out of your body.** Feel the sensations the air makes as it flows in through your mouth or nose, down your throat and into your lungs. Don’t try to do anything with your breathing – simply notice it, pay attention to it and be aware of it.

**3. Notice any recurrent thoughts, then gently bring your awareness back to your breath.** Your mind will invariably wander and you may find it difficult to stay focused on your breathing. Don't worry if you find yourself struggling. The act of realising that your mind has wandered – and encouraging it to return to focus on the breath – is central to the practice of mindfulness. Gently return your awareness back to the sensations of the breath again and again.

**4. Start this exercise initially for 5 minutes, building up daily.** You can also do this exercise lying down in bed if you have difficulty sleeping. It is simply a way of allowing you to be more mindful and consciously aware of your body and its surroundings.

**Now Breathe**