Day 3: Getting to Know Your Breath

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of things to pay attention to in your life.

You have goals, to-do lists, calls, texts, emails, appointments, updates, assignments, deadlines, annoyances, schedules, and soooooo much more.

These things are constantly shifting, changing, and demanding your attention. And most of the time you move from one thing to the next, just trying to keep up.

You jump from thought to thought, screen to screen, and distraction to distraction. And by the end of the day you just want to sit down with a big glass of wine and put your brain on standby mode.

It’s no wonder. The demands of life can wear your mind and body into a frayed mess. And one of the biggest reasons is this constant movement from one thing to the next.

Switching Cost

The scientific term for this is “switching cost”, which basically means that everytime you go from one thing to another you lose something. You lose a small piece of your attention, time, and energy. When you change tasks your brain isn’t ready, so it t takes it a minute to power down on the old task and then power up on the new one.

If you’ve ever opened one too many applications on your computer at once, then you have a pretty good example of what this feels like.

Everything is going great, and then you open that presentation for work and everything grinds to a hault. Your mouse won’t move, your windows won’t close, and before long you’re pressing Ctrl+Alt+Delete and praying that you saved some of the items you were working on.

Luckily there’s a way to change this. And it’s all about learning how to slow down and focus. The problem is that there are very few things that are constant, calming, and present. Your life is filled with things screaming for your attention, which is why it’s important to notice the one constant in your life that doesn’t demand much attention at all: the breath.

The Breath

For thousands of years people have used the breath as way to calm and focus the mind. The breath is soothing, rhythmic, ever present, and simple. Your breath has been with you your entire life and will remain with you until the day you die. Your breath is a slow and steady reminder that you’re lucky to be here, you’re lucky to be born, and that you’re lucky to be alive.

Which is why getting to know your breath is so important. One of the biggest barriers to being happy is a lack of space. When your head is full of thoughts, worries, and doubts there simply isn’t enough space: space for gratitude, for peace, for laughter, and for happiness.

This lack of space can not only stress you out, it can literally suffocate your innate ability to be happy. Which is why before we work on anything else, we’re going to work on getting to know your breath.


Below I have created a list of six ways to get to know your breath. Your mission today (if you choose to accept it) is:

  1. Practice – Pick one of the techniques below and practice it
  2. Reflect – Reflect on your experience and write a paragraph or even just a sentence about what you learned. If you want super awesome bonus points write a blog post about your experience. Be sure to include a link or Trackback to this post and/or share your post in the comments below. That way I can read your post and share what you learned with the group.
  3. Share – Share what you learned in one or all of the following ways.
  • Write a Blog Post: Again the more you write about what you learn the more it will sink in. One of the BIG reasons I started this blog was to help myself hold onto the lessons I learned at the monastery.
  • Social Media: You can share something short and sweet like what technique you chose and why or a question or anything else at all.

Please use hashtag #30dayhappy and or share with our Facebook group.

Comments: As always feel free to share in the comments. It’s nice to have your thoughts so close to the post and I love reading about what your learning and absorbing all of your amazing wisdom.

OK now for the techniques:

How To Get To Know Your Breath
There’s more than one way to get to know your breath. Here are six simple techniques:

ONE – 3 Deep Breaths – I have no doubt you’ve heard the advice that you should take 3 deep breaths when you’re feeling angry, upset, or sad as a way to clear your head and your heart. And this is a recommended practice for a reason. Taking a few deep breaths throughout the day can slow your heart rate, clear your head, and help you focus on what’s important.

So whenever you notice you’re getting frantic, overwhelmed, anxious, or angry.
Pause. And take 3 DEEP BREATHS.
Push all the air out of your lungs. Pause.
Fill yourself up. Pause.

TWO – Thankful Breath – TV and the Internet are so goog at constantly reminding you of what you don’t have, it’s easy to forget what you do have.
So before you eat, before you go to bed, or before you start your workday.
Pause. And take a few thankful breaths.
Breathe and feel thankful for the food you are about to eat.
Breathe and feel thankful that you have work to do.
Breathe and feel thankful for all the amazing people in your life.

THREE – Vibrant Breath – Another great time to notice breath is when you are exercising.
As you move notice the power of your breath.
Notice how your breathing matches your steps or movements.
If you’re lifting weights, notice how the breath holds you and gives you strength.
As you breathe, feel the life flowing through your veins.

FOUR – Letting Go Breath – Sometimes when we get stressed out, we hold our breath. It can be hard to notice, but if you pay attention you’ll feel your breath as shallow, sharp, and tight.

So whenever you feel this or whenever you transition from one space to the next practice taking a few letting go breaths.
Breathe and let go of your work as you step out of the office.
Breathe and let go of your day as you slide underneath the covers.
Breathe and let go of that difficult conversation as you get off the phone.

FIVE – Waking Breath – If you have a hard time waking up in the morning, breathing can help you greet the day.

Get out of bed and take several deep breaths. As you do feel your body waking up.
Feel your brain drinking in the crisp morning air.
Feel your eyes opening and as day begins.
Breath your life in deep gulps as you prepare to start the day.

SIX – Meditative Breath – Meditation on the Breath is one of the purest and simplest ways to experience your life. It may also be more challenging than these other practices.

Meditation on the breath is simple. All you need to do is find a comfortable position.
If you’re in a chair, sit on the front half. So that your feet are firmly on the ground and your knees are slightly below your hips.
Place your hands on your knees gently.
Sit up straight and look either straight ahead or slightly down.
Focus your eyes on one area and relax your gaze.
Now pause and take a deep breath.
Let go of what was before and set the intention to spend a few moments with your breath.
Then breathe in fully, letting your lungs fill completely but without forcing air in.
As you exhale take your attention as if it were a finger and place it on your breath.
As you breathe out imagine you are drawing this finger of attention across the surface of the breath.
At the bottom of your breath lift your attention and let the breath fill yourself fully.
At the top, Pause, place a finger of attention down and begin to exhale.
As you trace your breath notice it’s texture, it’s depth, it’s subtle qualities.
At the bottom lift, fill, and repeat.
Continue breathing in this way, focusing on the texture of your breath one exhale at a time.

Your #1 goal or intention it to notice one exhale, that’s it. Not to pay attention or stay focused for 100 breaths or even for 5 mins. Each exhale is a new challenge a new chance to be with your breath.

If your mind begins to wander that’s totally ok.
Everyone’s minds wander. Let me say that again.

If your mind doesn’t wander it’s likely you are a robot and you should report to your homebase now for recharging and reprogramming.

If you find your mind wandering that’s totally ok. Just notice it. Let it go and come back to the breath.

Remember each new exhale is a chance to focus.
If you only notice one exhale that’s success.
If you only notice a half an exhale that’s success.
If you notice that focusing on your breath is hard because your mind is distracted that’s success.


11 thoughts on “Day 3: Getting to Know Your Breath

  1. I like the thankful breath idea best. It seems to be a great way to change your perspective.

    What I did: Inhaled deeply and as I exhaled, said a prayer of thanks for whatever popped in my head – my family, my home, my life.

    How I felt: Wow. Yeah, I need to do this more often. It has a very calming effect and shifts my perspective to more a positive outlook.

  2. I need to practice the letting go breath. Today I am going to pay attention to every time I catch myself holding my breath and take 3 deep breaths!

  3. I must have sensed you were going to talk about breath today, as I meditated for 45 minutes before I opened today’s “Day 3” Challenge email. Yeah! The meditative breath is so relaxing.

  4. I meant to add that I have a recording that is quite similar to the meditation you posted. I’ve found it really helpful. I used to listen to it so often that I felt like it wasn’t quite right when it’s led by a different voice! I experience a similar phenomenon when I hear a song on the radio and it isn’t followed by the song that is next on the album it’s originally from.

  5. I think I did a combination of 3 deep breaths and letting go breath but I found it difficult to calm myself enough to appreciate the exercise. I have been meaning to start a meditation practice so this introduction will help. I will start paying closer attention to the breath.

    1. It’s interesting how when we don’t get the results we expect, we think we’ve done something wrong. The key to working with the breath is to meet it where it is. If you tried the exercise and noticed that it had an effect but that there was more letting go that you could do that’s success. To appreciate the exercise all you have to do is breathe and notice. SO you did it PERFECTLY! Good work 🙂

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