Cultivating Calm: The Basics of Deep Breathing and Meditation

Registered Dietitian Melanie Douglass teaches us the techniques of breathing, and how it can help us feel more calm and relaxed.


The Basics of Deep Breathing:

1. Start with “breath awareness”. Take 1 minute to notice how you are breathing right now. Do you take short, shallow breaths? Long, belly-deep breaths? Do you inhale quickly, exhale slowly, etc?

2. Sense your weight being supported by the floor. You’ll want to sit upright, with your back straight, but otherwise totally relaxed. Make sure your hands and face are relaxed.

3. Breathe through your nose, not your mouth. Breathing in through the nose ensures the correct balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide so that your body gets enough oxygen. When our bodies are oxygen deprived, the fight-or-flight response kicks in and makes us feel stressed and anxious.

4. Breathe into the belly, not the chest. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly. Now take a few breaths. You should be breathing deep into your belly so that your belly—not your chest–expands with each breath. Your diaphragm should be pushing downward as you inhale, allowing the bottom of your lungs to get more air.

5. Breathe consistently. Try to inhale and exhale for the same length of time. For example, breathe in for 2 counts and out for 2 counts.

The Basics of Meditation:

Note: There are many, many forms of meditation. This is a simple form of meditation that can be done by starting with just 5 minutes and gradually working up to longer durations.

1. Sit comfortably—but upright and dignified. If you use a chair, sit upright and don’t lean against the chair back. If you sit on the floor, bend your knees and bring your feet together in front of you. Place your right hand inside your left hand—with palms turned up—and touch your thumbs together.

2. Breathe deep into the belly. Become aware of your breath. Breathe through your nose.

3. Close your eyes. It’s impossible to stay focused and avoid distractions with open eyes.

4. Turn all your attention inward to a single object of awareness. You can focus on your breathing, a simple visualization, a mantra, or an ambient, calming sound (I like to mediate to the sound of my space heater… weird, I know, but it works for me!).

5. If your thoughts wander, calmly return them to the present. Your thoughts will naturally wander (at least the first few times you try this). It’s okay. Just calmly return your thoughts to your pre-determined “object of awareness”.


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By Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM

Author: Tip-a-Day Guide to Healthy Living

(Deseret Book, 2007)

© 2007 Melanie Douglass, Deseret Book

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