World Mental Health Day: Breathing and Meditation

Take Care of Yourself Through Breathing and Meditation
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World Mental Health Day: Breathing and Meditation

World Mental Health Day: Breathing and Meditation

We can’t let World Mental Health Day pass without talking about two ways to care for ourselves. Breathwork and meditation are free self-care practices to nurture our minds that require nothing but your own body. 

Sound too good to be true? But wait, there’s more! Both practices can help reduce stress and anxiety and improve your overall quality of life, as well. If you look at it this way, it’s kind of a no-brainer to include both breathwork and meditation in your daily routine – which I can certainly work on. The following are great breathing techniques and meditation ideas that have made a difference in my life. 

Breathing Techniques 

Square Breathing

A few years ago, my friend from Nutrition for Gals introduced me to square breathing, also known as box breathing. I started working with her to help balance my hormones and address adult acne. Unsurprisingly, stress plays a huge role in both. So, she offered some techniques that could help calm my nervous system when I was feeling overwhelmed or overstimulated. 

Square breathing is one of my favorite go-to’s and I still use it regularly. The steps are easy to remember and can be done from anywhere – even lying in bed or stuck in traffic! 

Breathe in and count to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.

Hold your breath for four seconds.

Slowly exhale through your mouth for four seconds. 

Hold the exhalation for four seconds. 

Repeat each of these steps for four seconds.

Belly Breathing 

Another great stress and anxiety reducer is belly breathing. It helps lower your blood pressure and heart rate. When you breathe normally, you don’t use your full lung capacity. But, belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, allows you to use 100% of your lung capacity. 

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill deep breath. Practice this technique to ensure you’re breathing through to the bottom of your diaphragm. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your lower belly. This will allow you to feel your diaphragm move. 

Breathe in through your nose so your stomach moves out against your lower hand. The hand on your chest should remain as still as possible. While breathing out through pursed lips, tighten your stomach muscles until they fully retract. Again, the hand on your chest should not move.

As you practice these steps more, it will seem natural for deep breaths to extend beyond your chest and fill your belly. 

Alternate Nostril Breathing 

Help yourself relax with this breathing technique that’s been shown to enhance cardiovascular function and lower heart rate. All you need is a free hand, and you’re set to try this anywhere! 

Using a finger, hold down your right nostril while you breathe in deeply through your left nostril. At the top of the breath, swap your finger so you’re holding down the left nostril instead and breathe out through your right nostril. Then,breathe in deeply through your right nostril, swap the one you’re holding closed, and breathe out through the left. Repeat. 

Give this a try if you feel stressed or anxious or set aside some time each day to enjoy this breath practice.   


Meditation is a wonderful practice that I have yet to master. As an active daydreamer and overthinker, sitting quietly and focusing solely on my breath or a single mantra can be difficult. 

However, it was helpful for me to realize that meditation doesn’t have to be perfect to be beneficial. Just because the neighbor’s dog starts barking or I can’t comfortably lie down doesn’t mean I can’t practice clearing my mind, focusing on my breath, and staying present. And doing so, even in “imperfect” conditions, helps reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and improve focus. 

One of my favorite times to meditate is after a workout – sweat and all. I lie on the floor as I feel my breath reach to the depths of my happily sore muscles. I learned this from yoga classes I attended, and it was my favorite part of the hour-long workouts. 

I also love meditation walks. Being outdoors brings me peace, so I like to head out to a nearby nature trail and practice being present in my surroundings. I try to keep a consistent rhythm between my breaths and steps while I take in the sounds and sights of my environment. If thoughts of work or my to-do list creep into my mind, I acknowledge them and then refocus on my breath and the trail. A meditation walk is a great alternative if the thought of sitting still sounds like punishment to you. 

Reflect on your daily or weekly routine and see if there is a specific time you can incorporate five or 10 minutes of meditation into it. If you need help getting started, look at the free guided meditations on YouTube or check out apps like Headspace and Calm

Have any breathing techniques or meditation practices made a difference in your self-care routine? Share them with us here or try one of the techniques listed above and let us know how it goes! 

Taylor Stawecki is a 20-something Michigander with a love for the great outdoors and written word. She spends her weekdays working for a digital marketing company and as a freelance copywriter. In her free time, you can find her reading, writing poetry, running, watching a Grey’s Anatomy rerun, or spending time with her family and friends.  As an old soul, she enjoys collecting salt and pepper shakers and cuddling up in oversized sweaters.

Favorite Book: If I have to choose, The Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball
Favorite Brunch Spot: Rochester Brunch House


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