Mindfulness is a word that you may have only heard recently, but the practice of mindfulness has been around for hundreds of years. It is simply the habit of paying attention and being aware of what you are feeling or what is going on in and around your body. You might wonder how this applies to lung health and your COPD.
Mindfulness involves breathing and relaxation practices. It has been used to help reduce anxiety and depression, as well as help to improve physical symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue. One way that you can practice mindfulness and increase your movement at the same time is by walking. For some people with COPD, walking can be a difficult task that causes anxiety; but mindful walking helps reduce stress and allows you to focus on with what is going on within your body.
How do I walk mindfully?
- Pick a specific place and time to practice every day (as allowed by your health care provider ).
- Have no other goal than to feel your body and its response to moving.
- Stand up straight, relax your shoulders, and hold your arms in a comfortable position.
- Shift your weight onto your right leg, then onto your left leg, and then back to the center. Pay attention to how your body feels.
- Move slowly and relax your body. Try not to tense up.
- Begin walking by taking one step at a time. Feel the bottom of your foot against the ground. Pause briefly between steps. Pay attention to your breathing and how your body feels. (Consider using a pursed-lip breathing technique if you feel short of breath.)
- Do not rush. Walk slowly, focusing on each step.
- If your mind begins to wander, bring your attention back to your breathing and focus on how you feel.
- Mindful walking is not about speed or the number of steps you take. It is about being aware and present in the act of walking.
As a person living well with COPD, you may already be very aware of your breathing and how it impacts your body and your emotions. Sometimes that impact is not always positive. If you are experiencing shortness of breath, the thought of focusing on your breathing can create anxiety. Mindfulness can help you to breathe better by reducing stress and anxiety and promoting deeper, focused breathing. This practice is called breathing awareness. It is a way to be intentional about your breathing.
How do I become more aware of my breathing? Try a mindful breathing activity. The purpose of this exercise is to be aware of your breathing and how you are feeling in the moment.
- Sit upright in a comfortable chair.
- Focus on feeling your breath in your abdomen (just below your belly button).
- If needed, gently place your hands on your abdomen so that you can feel your belly moving in and out as you breathe.
- Inhale through your nose.
- Purse your lips.
- Breathe out slowly.
- For the first few breaths, pay attention to how you are feeling mentally and emotionally (Do you feel happy, tense, stressed, or relaxed?) Don’t worry about changing your feelings, just be aware of what they are.
- For the next few breaths, pay attention to your body and how you feel physically. Identify any areas of tension, stress, or relaxation.
- For the remainder of focused breathing, direct your attention to just breathing. Breathing in, breathing out, and allowing your body to relax and be present with each breath.
- Start with ten breaths total. Work your way up to several minutes of focused breathing as you are able and allowed by your health care provider.
Some people find that keeping a mindfulness journal helps them to stay focused on their breathing and overall health. A journal can be helpful to keep track of how you are feeling from day to day and help you to see your progress. It can also be used as a place to practice thankfulness by writing down at least one thing that you are thankful for. Making a habit of writing down things that you are thankful for and focusing on the positive things in life can help boost mood and reduce anxiety.
Let’s chat…. what are some ways that you practice mindfulness?