Sunday, January 1, 2017

Be Kind (to Yourself): Breathe

Hello everyone and Happy New Year! I hope you had a safe and happy holiday season.

I’m glad to be on this side of the winter solstice. It’s comforting to know that, while it is still cold and dark, each new day brings with it a bit more sunshine. On that note, I’ve been thinking about how to move forward since my last post and I decided that I want to bring a bit more sunshine into your lives as well.

Since my last post, I have had many of you reach out to me to give me your love and support—thank you and I love you! I’ve also had a lot of people tell me that they can relate to what I said. It sounds like 2016 was a difficult year for a lot of people.

While I have spent a good portion of the last year feeling anxious and overwhelmed, I have also found some really helpful tools to bring me back to center. I thought that it would be useful to share these tools with you. I’m sure you already know much of what I have to share, nonetheless it is easy to move away from good habits and, therefore, nice to have gentle reminders.

With that in mind, I am pleased to introduce Be Kind (to Yourself), a collection of helpful tips, practical tools, nourishing recipes, and inspirational messages to help us find peace within so that we can move through the world with a little more grace and compassion.

Be Kind (to Yourself): Breathe

“Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Think about the last time you felt stressed. Maybe you were running late for work and you hit yet another red light. Or perhaps you were at the grocery store at the same time as everyone else in the city and you could barely push your cart through the crowded aisles. Really try to recall the details of the situation—the sounds, the smells, everything you saw, how you felt—transport yourself back. Now pause. How does your body feel? Where are you holding tension? How is your breathing?

Stress causes us to tense up and contract to protect ourselves. Be when we are tense we can’t breath fully. And, if you have ever tried to see how long you could hold your breath, you know that a lack of air causes a feeling of panic. Stress leads to tension, tension reduces air intake, a reduction in air intake causes stress.

Now try this: sit up straight and take a deep breath imagining that you are filling your lungs from the bottom to the top (I have this image in my mind of an empty balloon that is stuck to itself and as it fills with air the sides peal away from each other and expand). When your lungs are full, pause for a second and then release the breath, completely emptying your lungs. Repeat this a few times. To take this exercise to another level, audibly sigh as you let it out the breathe. How do you feel now?

Breathing is a powerful tool to release the hold of stress. For me breathing is a life line that pulls me back to shore when I’ve gone into the deep end. In fact, when the kids were little and got too upset to calm down, I would light a birthday candle, hold it a couple of feet away from them, and ask them to blow it out. Then I would relight the candle, move it back another foot or so, and ask them to blow it out again. I would repeat this exercise until they had taken several big deep breathes. It worked to snap them out of their mood every time.

One great way to remember to breathe throughout the day is to set an hourly chime on your watch. Every time you hear it, take a slow deep breath and notice how it feels. If you don’t have a watch, breath every time you get an email or text alert, or hear the neighbor’s dog bark, or step on a Lego, whatever works for you. If you forget, don’t worry and don’t berate yourself. Just breath.


  1. Thank you for the reminder. My moment is usually sitting in traffic on weekday afternoons - I need to remember then to try to relax and breathe (it's surprising how difficult it is to remember something so simple) and try to practice a little mindfulness meditation (eyes open, of course). It's funny, I ran across the name Thich Nhat Hanh today (something about mindfulness and walking meditation) and it brought me back to 'breathe' and this post - I'd like to say it was somewhere respectable, but I can't (it was Pinterest).

  2. Since I started meditating in the mornings and evening I've tried really hard to try to remember to meditate during the day. After 3 weeks of trying to remember to do it, I finally found a time when I naturally fall into meditating, when I run. On my run today I meditated on my breathing, my feet falling, and my arms gliding through the air. That is why I love to run: aligning those three--breath, feet, arms--in a fluid motion, reinforcing each other, and I get to "sit back" and listen.