Healthy Holidays Challenge: Harness the Power of Mindful Breathing

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Seize the day (or minute, or second) with this simple mindful breathing technique for tuning in.

The holidays have a way of throwing even the most dedicated health enthusiast off their game. Not this year! All month long, follow along as SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen unwraps our best tips for staying healthy, happy, and, yes, even calm during this busy time of year. Check in here and on our Facebook page for new activities to try. Here’s to your healthiest, happiest holiday season ever! 

Funny thing about anxious thoughts, ignoring them won’t make them go away. You didn’t need us to tell you that, of course, but there are ways to calm your inner worrywart. And they’re much more productive than stewing in a brew of negativity and self-doubt.

“Start by focusing on your breathing,” says SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen. “It’s a simple, yet powerful tool that can help you lower your stress and bring you back into the here-and-now.”

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How to Use the Mindful Breathing Technique for Beginners

Breathing exercises belong in the toolbox of mindfulness techniques that have been shown to help calm the nervous system. Mindfulness is a practice that teaches you how to stay present in the moment.

“Slowing down and truly being in the moment can be easier said than done. I get it!” Thigpen says. “But it’s so worth it. A mindfulness practice has been shown to help people build inner strength and resilience — and foster a deeper sense of fulfillment.  

“Just 60 seconds of mindful breathing is often enough to dial down feelings of anxiety,” Thigpen adds.

For today’s Healthy Holidays Challenge, press play on the video above and follow along as Thigpen guides you through this simple focused breathing exercise:

  • Find a comfortable, quiet spot.
  • Take a few deep breaths in and out.
  • Notice the sensations that come with each breath in and out.
  • Place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
  • Inhale slowly for four counts through your nose.
  • Exhale slowly for six counts through your mouth.
  • Change the length of the count, if necessary for your own comfort. For example: three breaths in, five breaths out. Keep your exhalations longer than your inhalations.
  • Stay with this breathing pattern for at least one minute.

“This is the breathing pattern I want you to come back to whenever it feels like your day is getting away from you, or whenever the expectations of others — or of the season — are starting to weigh you down,” Thigpen says.

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Tip: If you notice that you’ve become distracted from your breathing, don’t give up. “Simply shake it off and bring your attention back to your breath,” she says.

Bonus Challenge: Try a SilverSneakers LIVE Mindfulness & Meditation Express Class

This 15-minute online group class is a great way to try out new mindfulness techniques from the comfort of your couch, but with a trained instructor on hand who can answer questions. Check your eligibility, view the current schedule, and RSVP here.  

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