Breathing is automatic and not something most of us pay much attention to. In fact, it may be such a background activity that you catch yourself holding your breath without realizing it during exercise or breathing shallowly and rapidly while trying to race against a looming deadline. When distractions start to tug at your eyes or your thoughts, take a pause and use the sound of your inhales and exhales as a fidget.
Get your breathing and your brain concentrated with one of the following exercises, listening to the sound of your breath during each:
- Alternate breathing through each nostril. Take a breath in through the left side of your nose, holding your finger against your right; exhale through the left side. Take another breath in through the right side of your nose and repeat several times.
- Take deep breaths with audible exhales. Inhale with your nose, taking a breath that fills your chest with air. Open your mouth slightly and push the air out, hearing yourself exhale.
- Try the 4-7-8 breath pattern. Take a breath inward for 4 seconds, then hold that breath silently for 7 seconds. Blow the breath out with your mouth slowly, counting to 8 seconds. Try to make a whooshing sound as you exhale so you can hear the release.
Fidget with your breathing rhythms and you can sharpen your focus again. Listening to the sound of your own breathing as you follow different exercises draws your mind into what’s present and pressing: the emails you’re trying to read, the online lecture you’re trying to follow, the knitting pattern you’re trying to master. Concentrating on the sounds of your inhalation and exhalation, the inward and upward intake and the slow blow outward, allows distractions to fade into the background and renews your focus.