Sunday, April 21, 2013

Three Minute Time Out

Do you have a spare three minutes? If your answer is:

“No not really. I have so many other things to be doing, I don’t really have time to be reading this!”

Then this post is written for you!

I used to spend my life on fast forward. I was always busy, always doing and I loved it. I thrived by achieving and I got a high from ticking things off my list. I worked in project management, so timescales, deadlines and planning every last detail was my job and was becoming my life. My social life was scheduled with the same degree of organisation and “Work hard, play hard” was my motto. But you can only run for so long before your body gets tired. My doctor suggested the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course when my health deteriorated and I was having panic attacks.

One of the most useful techniques from the course, and one that I use on a daily basis, is the three-minute breathing space, which I will share with you now.

The three-minute breathing space 
Thank you to Dr Carla Croft for her permission to use this text from her MBSR course 

Minute 1: Awareness and acknowledging

Bring yourself into the present moment by deliberately adopting an erect and dignified posture. If possible, close your eyes. Then bring the focus of awareness to your inner experience and ask “What is going on for me right now… bodily sensations… thoughts….and in feelings?”

In may be helpful to put experiences into words, e.g., say in your mind “A feeling of anger is arising” or “Self-critical thoughts are here.” As best you can, fully register and acknowledge your experience, even if it is unwanted, instead of turning away. Accept all of your experiences in the body, emotions and thoughts, and stay with them for a few seconds, allowing any negative feelings or experiences to be present.

Minute 2: Gathering

Then gently focus your full attention to your breathing. Experience fully each in-breath and each out-breath, as they follow, one after the other.

Try noting, at the back of your mind;  “breathing in….breathing out…” or counting each breath “inhaling, one……exhaling, one”. Focus on your breath for one minute, which for most people is 12 breaths.

Your breath can function as an anchor to bring you into the present and help you tune into a state of awareness and stillness.

Minute 3: Expanding Awareness

Expand your awareness around your breathing to the whole body, and the space it takes up, as if your whole body is breathing. Include especially any sense of discomfort, tension or resistance. If these sensations are present, then take your awareness there by “breathing in to them” on the in-breath. Then breathe out from the sensations, softening and opening with the out-breath. Perhaps say to yourself on the out-breath “It’s okay whatever it is, it’s okay; let me be open to it.”

Become aware of and if necessary, adjust your posture and facial expression. Have a sense of the space around you and hold everything in awareness. The sequence is like an hour-glass, wide focus followed by narrow focus followed by wide. As best you can, bring this expanded awareness to the next moments of your day.

You can use this exercise as a way to step out of automatic pilot mode and reconnect with the present moment. It is especially helpful in moments of anxiety or upset but can also be used throughout your day to reset your mind and body. 

For more information on mindfulness courses and resources visit

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