A 3-Minute Mindfulness Breathing Exercise

Behavioral activation strategies can be supplemented by exercises that get you in touch with your body, your breathing, and your surroundings within the present moment, or what we call “mindful awareness.” Try the following the next time you feel mildly anxious or down:

  • Find a comfortable chair to sit in: sit with your back upright and your hands on your thighs, not touching the back of the chair. You can also lie on your back.
  • Close your eyes or stare at an object in the room. Spend 60 seconds being aware of the noises in your room – the sound of the air conditioner or heating, sounds from the street, music, people’s voices. Ask yourself, “What am I experiencing in my thoughts, my emotions, and my body?” Acknowledge to yourself each sensation, thought, or feeling, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
  • Now, for the next 60 seconds, focus on your breathing. Keep focusing oin yoru in-breath and out-breath, like you were riding a wave. It’s inevitable that your mind will wander. If your attention shifts to thinking of other things, notice what took you away but gently escort yourself back to your breathing.
  • Now, for the next 60 seconds, shift your attention to your entire body – your belly, feet, legs, thighs buttocks, stomach, chest, neck, and facial expression. Notice your posture and the sensation in different parts of your body as you breathe in and out. If your mind wanders, gently escort your awareness back to your body and breathing.
  • Slowly open your eyes and come back in contact with the room.

Source: Adapted with permission from Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., and Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: A new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford Press.

Note to the reader: If you’d like to learn more about using mindfulness meditation as a coping strategy, we recommend Williams, M., Teasdale, J., Segal, Z., & Kabat-Zinn, J. (2007). The Mindful Way Through Depression. New York: Guilford Press. This book includes a CD which will take you through numerous meditation practices, of which this one is just an example.

Note: This inset was reprinted from Miklowitz, D. J. & George, E. L. (2008), The Bipolar Teen: What You Can Do to Help Your Child and Your Family. New York: Guilford Press, pp. 213.