Harnessing the power of conscious breathing is the first step towards a more mindful, happy and fulfilled life! Sources: 11, 19, 20
There’s a reason why breathing techniques are so popular among the likes of successful people like Wim Hoff & Tony Robbins who swear by various conscious breathing techniques.
Conscious breathing creates a state of greater self awareness as well as being transformative in itself.
Simply put, conscious breathing uses awareness and control of your breathing, by uniting body and mind so you can bring the energy of mindfulness into each moment.
You may wonder what it is about conscious breathing that makes them it so important for health. Since breathing is an important part of the autonomic nervous system, it has been shown that by influencing your breathing, you increase overall awareness as well as improve your health, mood, digestion and much more. Sources: 1, 8
Luckily, anyone can learn the technique of conscious breathing and use it on a regular basis. Conscious breathing can help to strengthen both mental and physical health plus it has the huge bonus of being really easy to do!
The Mental Benefits of Conscious Breathing
There are many benefits to conscious breathing including:
improving inner peace
reducing fear and worry
helping to manage anxiety
helping to improve dealing with conflicts and issues
Conscious breathing can also help your mind by giving it enough oxygen to focus and strengthen your concentration. It can have a positive impact on memory and improve test results for students who are taking exams in school.
The Physical Benefits of Conscious Breathing
Conscious breathing also has a positive impact on your overall physical health too. Reported benefits include:
strengthening the lung function
positively affecting the cardiovascular system
improve energy levels as it helps oxygenate the body
Your body needs a constant flow of oxygen to function properly. By getting more oxygen to the body you improve not just the circulation but also the blood flow.
The practice of self-consciousness can be done by perceiving the emotions that come from different situations and noticing how to breathe through the chest and diaphragm. By paying attention to and observing your breath, you can cultivate mindfulness in your body and mind. Sources: 20
Putting time and attention into your breath while you breathe consciously can help to calm the mind and improve oxygen flow to both the brain and the nervous system.
The more you practice conscious breathing, the better you get at it.
How to practice conscious breathing
Conscious breathing requires you to focus on how you breathe. It makes you think about the process and helps you to regulate it. Conscious breathing encourages you to live in the moment and enjoy it.
Here’s a simple way to do it. First off find a quiet room and avoid interruptions from phones, devices and people for 5 to 10 minutes.
Then relax and breathe in deeply through your nose. Fill your lungs as much as possible.
As you breathe in, your abdomen will rise.
Hold the breathe for a moment.
Then exhale gently.
You can feel your abdomen go back down as you exhale.
Then repeat the process
You can become more aware of the process by putting your hand on your stomach. Combining meditation with conscious breathing makes the technique even more effective.
Pay attention to the experiences associated with breathing, such as how the breath passes through your nostrils, feels under your skin, how it fills the lungs and then how it feels as it leaves your body.
Full body breathing
Another way to consciously breathe is as follows. Take a big breath each time you inhale, stretch your abdomen and chest and squeeze your diaphragm to drain the rest of the breath. If you notice that you are holding your breath and the tension is building up, a simple technique is to hold your breath pleasantly for as long as possible, then release a larger breath with a whoosh and a sigh of relief. Sources: 6, 9, 14
When you remember to breathe evenly and deeply during the conscious breathing process, it becomes physiologically impossible to maintain muscle tension.
The breath feels more natural, movements feel more effortless and you can feel the beautiful breathing of the body. By consciously using the diaphragm to squeeze you encourage both lungs to breath fully. Sources: 7, 12, 13
The Equal Breathing Exercise
One exercise you can try is The Equal Breathing exercise, which focuses on regular inhalation and exhalation of the same duration. It is a simple and effective deep breathing exercise that can be used almost anywhere.
The idea is to breathe in completely, breathe from the abdomen to the chest and then passively let go with the exhale. Sources: 0, 3
Simple Conscious Breathing Exercise
The simplest conscious breathing exercise as follows. Breathe in deep oxygen, hold your breath for 3-4 seconds and then exhale with a sensation in your nose that you cannot feel.
When you release the breath and breath slowly and gently, you will experience the emotions generated by conscious breathing.
Breathing with Yoga & Meditation
Whilst conscious breathing is a part of both meditation and yoga, trying to use some breathing techniques in yoga can be difficult. As an example for first timers going into Hot Yoga classes, many struggle with keeping their mouths closed in the 90 degree heated room whilst practicing. The act of conscious breathing helps to make this become second nature for practitioners who make conscious breathing a part of their routine.
Taking the time to consciously breathe as a part of life changes the way you live in the moment. By paying attention to the sensations of the breath every time you breathe in or out, you can notice your inner state and adjust to the world around you.
As you become more aware of breathing, steps can be taken to correct your breathing patterns for better health and well-being. If you pay attention not only to inhaling and exhaling, you bring your mind back into the body, but also your heart, thoughts and emotions. Sources: 5, 6, 19, 21
Conscious breathing is a teachable process that is easy to learn. It can have a positive influence on many aspects of your life.
Let me know in the comments if this is something you do? How do you practice conscious breathing, and what impact it’s had on you.
Brainwave training in short is a term for any process that helps you improve your brain power. This can be done through games, sounds, meditation etc.
When we talk about brainwaves we’re talking about the different frequencies our brains produce in different states – when we’re relaxed, thinking, concentrating, sleeping etc the stages literally show up in electroencephalogram (EEG) as different waves.
These brainwaves fall into different bands:
Alpha, Delta, Theta, Beta & Gamma. When we’re in each band we’re in different states.
The frequency bands
When we are in a state of clam, rest or just generally awake and not doing anything our brains are emitting Alpha waves. At a range frequency of between 7 and 12 Hz.
Benefits Of Alpha Waves
Better athletic performance
You may experience Alpha waves when falling asleep or trying to go to sleep when your subconscious mind shuts down and you enter the state of subconsciousness.
Alpha brainwave frequencies are found during states of waking life as well as when you are in REM sleep. Alpha brain waves promote deep sleep and can induce dreams.
Conversely this is the state that many of the traditional authors in Law of Attraction books encourage readers to get into when doing their visualisations and manifesting work, which I’ll cover off in another post.
Delta 0-3 Hz
Delta waves are the brainwave frequencies associated with being in a daydreaming state and those self-hypnosis states when you’re almost having an out of body experience. Let me explain, have you ever been driving, and your mind wanders off the task of driving and you’re thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner, or reminiscing on some event from the past. Then all of sudden you realise you lost yourself for a moment in another world whilst you were driving. That’s your brain in Delta.
Training your brain to reach Delta brainwave frequencies can help you get better sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. Other benefits include:
Benefits Of Delta Brainwaves
Releasing anti-aging hormones like DHEA
Stimulating the pituitary gland
Releasing Human Growth Hormone
Repairing skin, bone, joints etc
Just generally healing
Theta 4-7 Hz
Theta waves are the brainwave frequency associated with deep sleep and being in a dream state. These waves help you focus and concentrate better.
Theta waves can be difficult to reach because they require a complete break from conscious reality. They can also be brought on by doing things repeatedly, where our brain isn’t really needed so it switches off and you wonder off into another world
If you want to do better at work or in your business one of the best trainings you can do is Theta training as it helps us to focus, retain memory and regulate emotion.
Benefits Of Theta Brainwaves
Reduced mental fatigue
Beta 12-30 Hz
Beta waves are associated with being awake and alert, it’s the brainwave responsible for the fight or flight response.
Beta waves help you to think quickly and accurately.
Benefits Of Beta Waves
Improved critical thinking
Beta waves help you focus and observe details better. If you’re in a stressful situation, your brainwaves will shift to Beta waves and help you cope with the situation better.
If you wanted to move from Beta to Alpha brainwave frequencies you would need to let go of stress by doing some form of exercise or mediation.
Gamma 30-50 Hz or higher
Gamma waves are the brainwave frequencies that occur when taking a nap. Gamma waves help you focus by reducing external distractions. It has been shown that gamma waves are typically present during the process of awakening as well as during active rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
Benefits of Gamma Brainwaves
Better emotional intelligence
Better self control
Increased feelings of happiness
Increased overall awareness
Increased levels of intelligence
So we can see the various brainwave stages and their benefits. But how exactly do you go about training them, and which should you focus on?
There are a few ways we can train our brain. We can train our brains through simple breathing exercises, and through meditation.
For instance if you’re in a state of stress the ‘physiological sigh technique‘ which I discuss in my post How to transform Fear into Peace and Calm is a useful tool. It’s where you breathe two short breaths through the nose and one slow breathe out of the mouth which can be used to bring calm. Or you can use a simple breathing technique to help slow the lower the heart rate and return to a more calm relaxed state. In time these types of practices can help our brains to manage stressful situations much easier.
Meditation is one of the best ways to get your brain into Gamma waves. Meditation induces synchronisation in the band which helps the brain bind different aspects of perception into a coherent simple concept. Which is perhaps why experienced meditators can get into altered states of consciousness.
But one of the quicker and perhaps easier ways to train the brain is through Brainwave entrainment.
Brainwave entrainment is a technique of brainwave synchronization that helps you achieve the brainwave frequencies needed for optimal brainwave functions. These exercises help to train your brain to improve all types of functionality from falling asleep to better concentration and improve overall cognitive function.
There are lots of different devices that can help you align your brainwaves via a mix of audio and visual stimulation. I have the MindPlace Kasina device which took a bit of time to get used to but after a few goes I found it incredibly powerful tool to use.
Essentially you just plug in, pick what you want to achieve, for example, deep sleep or concentration and then pop on the glasses and press play. The device then plays sounds into your ears and creates a light show that effectively moves your brain into the correct brainwave state.
Where to start
For me I think the most beneficial place to start and possibly one of the easiest is Gamma wave training.
Gamma waves are some of the most fascinating to me. Neuroscientists at the University of Wisconsin conducted a research into the brainwaves of 66 year old Tibetan Monk Matthieu Ricard, whose brain produced Gamma waves they have never witnessed before. He claims that this is all down to meditation, and led to neuroscientists calling him the ‘happiest man on earth’.
So if you had to choose one I would focus on Gamma waves.
The brain truly is a complex but fascinating part of the human experience. And as the control centre of our existence we are increasingly becoming aware that true success and happiness in life comes from taking better control of the brain. The benefits of active brain training are far and wide. And within a few simple sessions of brainwave training you’ll reap the rewards and the benefits rapidly.
People often ask themselves how they can prevent them from experiencing negative emotions such as fear, nervousness and anger, but the truth is that we do not. Anxiety and feelings of worry, nervousness and discomfort can turn our stomachs into knots, undermine our confidence and wellbeing, create stress, deprive us of a peaceful nights sleep, or even cause anxiety and depression.
Fear can show up in a whole host of different ways for entrepreneurs. Including fear of:
being judged as not worthy
being seen as a fake
even being successful
At any given moment one or a combination of these can show up for business owners, especially if they work alone.
Now the trick here is to understand the fear no matter how uncomfortable it is. Because that fear is telling you something. It’s telling you that something is out of alignment with either you, your business or even both. What I mean is not that you are doing anything wrong particularly but there is something in your nervous system trying to hold you back from action, and it’s using fear to do this.
The purpose of fear
Biologically fear exists to protect us. If you’ve ever burnt yourself, next time you get close to fire you’ll feel that fear as a warning to stay away, and the feeling is usually so powerful that it instantly stops you from taking action. It’s this instant power from fear that has helped our species survive. All living creatures experience fear, it’s a healthy part of existence and has been with us since the beginning of time.
But as we grow older the fears evolve too. Suddenly upsetting our friends and family or being reprimanded or seen as failing becomes the focus of our fear. We don’t want to upset our tribe, and potentially be banished for standing out. So for many of us, we try to blend in and be useful.
So, understandably for entrepreneurs who want to create personal brands, standing out can bring up every type of fear imaginable.
I certainly experienced this myself during my own entrepreneur journey. I consistently sought our partnerships with people who would be happy to be the public face. So I could do the actual guts of the work behind the scenes. I hated the thought of people ‘seeing me’ and it took many years of hard work to actually come to the conclusion that I had to put my face to my brand in order to truly deliver the message I was put here to do.
So I get it, it’s tough. But if you’re an entrepreneur with a personal brand, you really need to address these fears or your business will suffer.
The fear most of us live with today is entirely psychological and that fear leads to the biggest problem in today’s society – stress.
Stress causes so many issues with minds and bodies, it needs a piece to itself. But the long and short of it is that consistently living a stressed life is going to have a knock on effect on you, your family and ultimately your business.
So let’s get to it. If you’re constantly in a state of anxiety and fear and struggle to even sit still. This is your sign to take action. You’re one of those people who is so anxious about life in general that you are crippling yourself with the ‘what if’ feelings.
Some entrepreneurs manage this stress by overworking. By keeping constantly busy they don’t have time to deal with their anxiety. But this again is a short term solution, because it simply masks something much deeper going on.
The Fear Rationalizing Process
We need to understand that something is out of alignment. Your solution is to sit and write out what it is exactly that you are most frightened of? Try and be as specific as possible to understand what is going on. Then when you have identified the specific fear, work on an action plan to deal with this.
For example – if you fear that you’ll be judged, put into your action plan someone who supports you. Or perhaps you are anxious that you’ll fail, in this scenario know that every billionaire, millionaire, multi income stream, brand on the face of the earth failed!
See it helps to counteract the fear, don’t let it run around your brain like a spoilt child. Take control, and manage the fear. You know it’s going to come up at some point, it’s your duty to take control of it. By getting specific on counteracting the fear you can manage it. Fear thrives on the unknown, it’s a nagging feeling that something bad will happen but if you answer that nagging feeling with logic, it shifts the feeling, it probably won’t obliterate it, and we don’t want to eliminate fear completely but it will help to make it so much easier to manage.
Focused Breathing Exercise
Focused breathing is a great way to help to calm the reactivity of our nervous system and return to our natural physiological state of inner peace, even in the midst of adversity. Even if things are turbulent at the moment, those who overcome their fear do not forget peace. [Sources: 3, 13]
If you become overly anxious try using the following steps to help you calm down and regain control.
There’s a great breathing practice from the desk of Stanford Neuroscientist Dr Huberman says the fastest way to bring the autonomic nervous system is with a physiological sigh which instantly helps reduce stress and anxiety.
The pattern is this:
Two short inhales back to back through the nose – followed by an extended exhale through the mouth.
That’s a super quick way to help calm the nerves. Coupled with some regular meditation and mindfulness practice you can truly begin to turn that fear into a place of calm on a daily basis.
Just Breathe Meditation
It’s why I created my Just Breathe meditation for entrepreneurs, because using that simple practice when we need some calm can make all the difference in our businesses.
Another practice combines breathing with the fear rationalizing exercise.
Exhale The Fear Exercise
To change our relationship with fear and anxiety, we need to define what we are dealing with and use breathing techniques to calm our mind. So next time you are afraid to do something, take several long, deep breaths, list your fears and imagine you are exhaling them as you count them. Remember that letting go of fear will allow you to let go of fear when you let your breath flow and keep your chest open, and letting go of fear will bring you true health and inner peace.
Keeping a mindfulness journal can also help manage fear on a day to day basis. And help you rewire your brain, reboot your nervous system, and cultivate inner peace, happiness, and resilience.
Stick with it
Let’s be clear however, if you’re used to living with constant stress and anxiety It will be tough to retrain your brain, but if you commit to bringing about change, you will be able to overcome your fears and unknowns, and you will discover that fear. Is the catalyst that helps you embody what you really want in your life.
Explore and discover how to consistently defy fear, habit and addiction and how to prevent yourself from living with fear.
It is important to understand that the transformation of fear into calm is not about suppressing or denying the truth of your feelings. It is also reassuring to accept the reality of fear as a symptom of our body, rather than reacting with catastrophic thinking.
Each of the tools listed above can help you move fear into calm. Next time you’re feeling any kind of stress try one and see which works best for you.
Meditation and Mindfulness are easily confused. There are so many different types of meditation available to us. Some meditation practices focusing on the breathe and guide us to simply inhale and exhale. Others are mantra based where meditators repeat phrases or sounds such as OM. Then there are are kindness meditations where meditators send messages of loving kindness others or to the world as a whole. And then there is a Mindfulness Meditation – where meditators are encouraged to experience the moment, how they feel, what they can hear and what sensations and emotions are present.
There are so many different types of meditation it can be quite confusing especially to the beginner. Coupled with the fact that you can practice a ‘mindfulness meditation’ it’s easy to understand where the confusion comes from.
Meditation is a practice that you engage in for a certain period of time, but when the bell rings the practice is over. Mindfulness however is a continuous way of thinking. Meditation can be done in so many different ways, you can even meditate whilst walking or drawing as well as the traditional eyes closed methods.
But at its core Mindfulness is a focused awareness. It’s simply paying attention to the present moment, to your thoughts, your feelings, your sensations and the world around you as a whole. Yes, this can be done in mediation, but true mindfulness is done outside of meditation.
Mindfulness and Meditation are often interchangeably used, and the increased confusion comes from the fact there are also ‘mindfulness meditations‘. But if we look at mindfulness as more of a quality of mind, that can help us gain some clarity.
Mindfulness meditation is about not concentrating our energy on the thoughts that permeate the present, but settling into the thoughts of our mind and putting ourselves in a state that goes beyond thinking.
While mindfulness can be defined as a mental state that involves fully focusing on the now so that we can acknowledge and accept our thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgment, meditation can also be combined with other mental states, such as insight meditation or even meditation practice.
I like to think of mindfulness as a conscious way of being. With mindfulness, we are conscious of each moment. The air brushing the leaves, the sound of the car tyres on the tarmac, the warmth of the air as it exits our bodies and our emotion in that moment.
There are so many aspects to mindfulness, and there is no right way to become more mindful other than to practice.
If you’re new to mindfulness, you can start by scheduling just five mintues in your day to stop whatever you are doing and appreciate the world around you.
This can be done by ideally going outside, and witnessing nature. Even if youre in an urban area, being able to see trees, grass or plants can help. Then you simply witness. Look at the colour of the sky, the green of the plants, the air temperature. Think about the miracle of nature, how that tree even got there, how the sun nourishes all things on the planet. How water brings life. How the same molecules in the trees are also in your body.
You see where I’m going here. The miracle of the moment is so powerful when you consciously think about all the things you are able to experience. And that’s just on your own!
Practicing mindfulness around others is incredibly powerful and can dramatically improve emotional intelligence. Being able to use a brain that is well versed in mindfulness when you’re in the middle of a disagreement with someone truly helps to shift anger and confusion into compassion and understanding.
The benefits of mindfulness are widely known, including improving overall mental health and wellbeing. There’s a reason why medical professionals often recommend mindfulness nowadays even the NHS and NICE recommend mindfulness as a practice to help with depression.
But neither meditation nor mindfulness are magic pills. They are tools that can help us in our day to day lives but sometimes we need more, and if you are suffering with something like depression or anxiety then please seek professional advice as well as practicing meditation or mindfulness.
Whatever is going on in your life. You can incorporate mindfulness into your day. And it becomes so much easier the more you do this.
When I started my own mindfulness and meditation practice, I was in a terrible state. I was recovering from a burnout that left me paralysed, I was also healing from an abusive relationship, and quite frankly I was miserable. I was living my life in a state of fear and hate. But all that was doing, was making my life harder.
But I was determined not to be beaten. So I set about a regular practice. And at first, whilst I tried to appreciate the moment, my brain would still go back to how awful my life was. But by gently going back to appreciating the moment, eventually my brain stopped with that negative pattern. And then I started to discover that I was so grateful for my life. I was grateful for the air I was breathing, for the people in my life, for the money in my account for every aspect of the life I had experienced so far.
Mindfulness leads to a gratitude unlike any other. My gratitude practice following being consistently mindful exploded! I now have a gratitude practice that includes 20 points a day and I could keep writing!
So in short, mindfulness and mediation are interchangeable but the important thing to remember here is that both are incredibly powerful and beneficial to our mental health and our overall wellbeing.
When I started to meditate it took me a while to figure out which form of meditation works best for me. But what’s really important when starting meditation for the first time is to try and find a meditation practice that feels comfortable and is doable for you.
The easiest type of meditation to follow is a guided meditation. That literally means when a teacher talks you through the process and you simply listen to the sound of their voice as they ‘guide‘ you through the practice. There are many different types of guided practices available as a starter for 10.
One of my favorites is a lovely ‘Breathing‘ meditation I have that simply focuses on breathing in and out in a relaxed state. But the possibilities are endless.
Perhaps the most important thing to do is ensure you are in a comfortable place. Ideally in a space where you will not be disturbed during your practice.
New meditators will often fidget whilst trying to sit still and spend so much time in their heads that the slightest distraction can throw them off course. So a nice quiet place, certainly in the beginning is absolutely crucial.
Next you need to sit or lie down to practice. Let’s not beat around the bush here, if you’ve never meditated before the first time is going to be tricky.
You will probably ask yourself whether you’re doing it right, what you should be feeling, whether you are meditating or just sitting still. Whatever goes through your mind, just allow it to pass.
Witness the thoughts like clouds drifting across the sky. Just let them go and don’t beat yourself up about how well you are doing. Trust me this gets so much easier in time.
The purpose of meditation is not to punish oneself for not being perfect!
Rather, it is about training us to become aware of the sensations that permeate us, such as the sound of breathing, our heartbeat and the movements of our body.
Learning to meditate requires repetition and patience, not only for beginners but for all of us. But in all honesty it simply takes practice, practice, more practice – and a lot of practice. I joke it’s called ‘a practice’ for a reason. Because that’s what we have to do each day. But the benefits are phenomenal.
Meditation touches a large part of our thinking and is generally something we do regularly, with time allocated to this practice ideally daily. You can read more about the benefits of meditation to improve sleep and reduce stress in my meditation guide here.
Think of it as a form of training and learn to focus your attention back on the present, which helps you develop a stronger sense of concentration, calm and awareness in your everyday life.
An alternative meditation which is another simple practice is a focus meditation.
Simply start by sitting still, sitting with your eyes fixed on the point of your eyebrows, and let your thoughts and sensations rise and fall while you sit still and feel them. You can do this for just a moment or longer it’s entirely up to you.
When you start meditating, start with a few minutes and then ideally build up to about 10 minutes a day.
Meditation is a great way to feel calm and happy and to improve the overall health of the brain and reduce the risk of depression and anxiety.
Meditation is so powerful. It has truly been a life changer for me. It’s helped me deal with stress, anxiety, depression and burnout. It’s why I now teach meditation worldwide and have over 50,000 downloads! If you’re a beginner to meditation, I would suggest grabbing my ‘Just Breath’ meditation which guides you fully through the practice. You need nothing fancy, no white clothes, mountain tops or candles. Just you, your mobile device and a comfy seat.
I look forward to connecting with you in your practice.