“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
By now, you’ve likely made a commitment to be a wellness leader. And you may have set in motion a wellness moonshot for your personal life, your family and your team at work. We celebrate your dedication to health and wellbeing!
You may have also discovered that making progress toward your wellness vision and goals takes a daily dose of discipline. Growing healthier mindsets and habits is no small feat. Now is a good time to notice if you, your family or your workplace team has strayed off the wellness journey—everyone does! Part of being a wellness leader is to recognize when things get off track, reconnect with your inspiration to change, and course-correct with courage and compassion.
The good news? No matter where you are on the wellness journey, one action will support your goals every step of the way.
Take a Breath!
We come into the world with an inhalation. We leave the world with an exhalation. In between these two moments in life, breath is one of the most potent wellness tools we have—and it is accessible, reliable and free to all.
Think of yourself as an energy system where the mark of wellness is energy circulating within and through you. Most cultures around the globe have a version of this idea—chi, life force, élan vital, ki, mana, prana. This energy flow is activated by the power of your breath. Ancient healing traditions go so far as to say: The quality of breath governs the quality of energy flow throughout mind and body.
Boost Your Physical and Mental Wellness
Your physical and mental wellness get a boost by your active use of breath. Controlled breathing, sometimes known as yogic breath or mindful breathing, can reduce chronic pain; lessen symptoms associated with anxiety, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, mass disasters, depression and attention deficit disorder; and positively affect your immune system. Plus, it helps regulate your emotions, diminishes impulsivity, and keeps your brain sharp as you age. Mindful breathing is also linked to increases in brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and a better cortisol awaking response (CAR). Each is a physiological key for meeting challenges with greater resilience and possibly even countering the genetic changes in your DNA that cause stress.
Let’s face it: Most of us have lives and workplaces fueled by complexities and constant change. On this journey to live and lead wellness, how can you reconnect with your best self in the moment?
Join the #WellnessMoonshot Community!
Post your personal or shared wellness moonshot along with a photo during the week of the full moon (March 7-14) with #wellnessmoonshot. We’ll spread your inspiration to the growing network of wellness leaders across the globe!
Breathe for Wellbeing
We usually breathe on autopilot. As living systems, the act of breathing is an amazing, built-in feature of our design. Breathing mindfully, however, allows you to change your state of being right now. As Dr. Richard Brown, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, says, “When you take slow, steady breaths, your brain gets the message that all is well…” So, how do you breathe for wellbeing?
Find a comfortable seat and try one (or more!) of these conscious breathing practices.
- 4 X 8 Breath: Close your eyes or softly gaze at a stationary point, such as a spot on the floor. Inhale to the count of four. Briefly pause at the top of the in-breath. Exhale to the count of eight. Repeat this cycle at least four times. Notice the calming effects of this breath on your mind, energy, body and emotions.
- Breath of Alignment: While closing your eyes or softly gazing at a point in front of you, inhale fully while gently lifting the crown of your head toward the sky. (You may feel the back of your neck softly elongate, too.) Now, exhale completely while inviting your hips to sink into your seat. While elongating your spine, allow it to be flexible rather than rigid as you breathe. Repeat this breathing cycle at least four times.
- Heart-Centered Breath: Close your eyes or rest your gaze on a stationary point. Place one or both hands on the middle of your chest. Allow this touch to reconnect you with your heart—for instance, its rhythm and beat or the qualities of loving kindness, gratitude and peace. For the next 5–10 minutes, breathe mindfully, keeping your awareness at your heart center and your breaths effortless and even.
When are the best times to use your breath?
Candidly, there is no situation that cannot be aided by a conscious breath. As examples:
- To interrupt anxious thoughts BEFORE a big presentation or parent-teacher conference so that you bring greater clarity and vitality to it.
- With others DURING a team meeting or neighborhood gathering to set the tone that “we are all in this together.”
- AFTER a crisis, such as hearing bad news about a loved one or after a stressful product launch. Conscious breathing will help you respond with a sense of calm instead of reacting out of tension.
- As a DAILY wellness ritual to make your inner balance and wellbeing your foundation as a wellness leader.
Wellness Leadership Is a Journey
Share how you, your family or your team is breathing for wellbeing using #wellnessmoonshot. We’ll spread your inspiration to the growing network of wellness leaders worldwide!
Think of each month’s Wellness Moonshot as a guide or “lesson plan” to empower wellness. Plus, invite others to join in The Wellness Moonshot! Next month, we will focus on how being adaptable can build trust in yourself and others—especially amid the constant changes in life and work.
- How Mindful Breathing Trains Your Brain to Focus, Mindful
- The Future of Wellness at Work, GWI Research Report
- Grow to be well with March’s Wellness Moonshot actions
- GWI’s Yoga Therapy Initiative
- Wellbeing Leadership Assessment System, Be Well Lead Well Pulse®
- February’s five steps to include more wellness in your life