zen habits : breathe

6 Seconds To Relax

“Smile, breathe and go slowly.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Sarah, a psychiatrist of How to Cope with Pain.

Ever have one of those days when it seems there’s not a minute to catch your breath, let alone meditate or relax? A day when you feel like the proverbial busy bee, with no time to admire the fragrant flowers you’re landing on?

Leo has given us some wise ways to relax, simplify, and take life more slowly, but you might still find it tricky to always put these suggestions to use. Or, perhaps for you, some days flow smoothly, but there are still some – or many – during which taking a break feels impossible.

On those days, instead of an evening, an hour, or even 15 minutes to relax, could you spare 6 seconds?

Yes, that’s right… 6 seconds. That’s the time it takes to let yourself have 1 relaxing breath. 2 seconds breathing in through your nose, and 4 seconds exhaling through your mouth. Right now, I’m going to ask you to take 12 seconds for an experiment. At the end of this sentence, practice that relaxing breath… 2 seconds in and 4 seconds out.

That’s right. And once again at the end of this sentence.

Even that little amount of time – 6 seconds – can help your body and mind relax. Let your heart rate slow. Let some of the stress slide away.

Now how can you give yourself the gift of relaxing breaths during even your busiest days? One answer is to pair a relaxing breath with an activity that comes up repeatedly during your day. For example, let’s say you’re a secretary. Each time your phone rings, breathe before you answer it. (6 seconds is less than the time it takes for the phone to ring again, so no one will even notice you’re taking time for yourself.)

Here are some other examples of fitting in a single breath, using – you guessed it – BREATHE:

B: If you’re a Blogger, take a breath each time you click “save” when writing an article for your blog.
R: If you make Reservations for an airline, take a breath each time you book a flight going east.
E: If you’re an Engineer, take a breath each time you use your calculator.
A: If you’re an Accountant, take a breath each time you see a number ending in 6.
T: If you’re a Teacher, take a breath each time the school bell rings.
H: If you’re a Highway tollbooth operator, take a breath each time a white car comes through your lane.
E: If you’re an Editor, take a breath each time you correct a comma.

Now it’s time to put your creativity to work for yourself. You’re invited to fill in the blanks below, and then share in the comments what you’ll do to regularly sneak in relaxed breathing during your day.

I’m a _________________, so I’ll take a breath each time I ________________________.

Will you commit to try this exercise today? Remember, even busy bees rest. The American Bee Journal says so. And if they can do it, so can you!

How to Cope with Pain, hosted by a psychiatrist specializing in chronic pain management, frequently writes about breathing, relaxing, and managing stress.

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