In yesterday’s blog post, I introduced you to the difference between physical and mental clutter. Addressing the clutter filling our minds and homes is the first step toward enjoying peace. Another thing you can do is deep breathing for stress relief. This is a simple exercise that tames the overwhelm of your mind in the moment. Making it a daily practice offers numerous benefits for your brain and your overall well-being. Let’s take a look.
Deep Breathing as Part of a Meditative Practice
For us Christians, meditation looks different than the usual “empty your mind.” We don’t empty our minds, we focus our minds on one thing. That one thing is a chosen Bible verse, a particular event in which we clearly felt God’s presence, or a prayer. We can also incorporate deep breathing for stress relief, breathing out all the negativity and bad thinking. Then, we breathe in more of Jesus, who gave us life with his very own breath and breathed the Holy Spirit into us. (see Job 33:4, John 20: 21)
Meditating on God’s Word
No matter which form our meditation takes, the main point of such exercises is to focus attention, eliminating distractions and intrusive thoughts. The Bible in Psalms 1:1 says, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”
God promises that if we meditate on his Word, we will prosper (do not misinterpret this to mean wealth). The Holy Spirit will enable us to let go of the mental clutter and experience his peace. But, we must do this regularly and often, not just once in a while. And, deep breathing can be part of this practice.
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation offers a wide range of benefits, not just mental and spiritual ones. And, the effects are long-lasting. When you meditate on God’s Word, you’ll find yourself feeling calmer and noting improvements in your physical well-being long after your meditation session ends. Meditation on who God is, his Word, and his presence helps to diminish the mental overload that can overwhelm you (Luke 10:40-41), leading to less stress. This renewed state can often provide you with clarity when it comes to the issues you face throughout your life. You will be better equipped to know and understand what God is doing in your life.
Your physical health will improve, too. Some of the health benefits of meditation include decreased depression symptoms, lessened anxiety, reduction in chronic pain, improved sleep, and less frequent tension headaches, among others.
Deep breathing for stress relief
What about in the moment? What can you do when your mind goes blank and you can’t remember a single verse? When those moments hit, you can try deep breathing for stress relief. One of the easiest ways to start is a simple breathing exercise. As I mentioned, it can help you to gain focus and to “blow away” stress.
Find a quiet space with a comfortable chair. The bathroom with the door shut works nicely! Sit up straight, with your feet flat on the floor. You could also take a seated position on a floor pillow, if you prefer. Begin by inhaling deeply, pushing your stomach muscles, or diaphragm, outward. Inhale slowly, allowing your stomach to return to its resting position. Continue this until you find a comfortable rhythm. Try to focus on Jesus as you breathe deeply. It might help to close your eyes. Breathe in for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds. Repeat. You will feel your tense muscles loosen and your mind growing calmer.
It might feel weird at first because many of us are used to shallow breathing and expanding our stomachs, not our chests. Five minutes is usually long enough to gain the benefits, but your session can be as long as is comfortable when starting out.
Meditation is a practice that can provide tremendous calming benefits. It’s easy to do and is especially effective when done regularly. Give it a try to see how meditating works for you.