Optimind Clinic

Dr Gordon Wong, psychiatrist    

Mindfulness of Breath: Key to Calm and Peace

by Dr Gordon Wong, Specialist in Psychiatry

MBBS (HK), MRCPsych, FHKCPsych, FHKAM (Psychiatry), MSocSc (Couns)(South Australia), DCPsyc RCP&S (Irel), DFM (HKCFP), Dip Med (CUHK), PGDipClinDerm (QMUL)


Mindfulness is the ongoing, intentional and non judgmental contact with the here and now. It is derived from Buddhist traditions, but mindfulness itself is not a religion or a religious practice. It can be practiced by anyone who wishes to improve their awareness of their inner experiences and external stimuli.

There are many ways in which one can practice mindfulness. For example, mindfulness of breath is a commonly used method. We simply concentrate on the awareness of your breathing, be it the air movement through the nostrils, movement of the chest or the abdomen on breathing. You may even find yourself being able to trace the breath from the nose to the lungs. There is no right or wrong way to notice your breath, in keeping with the non judgmental attitude of mindfulness.

To practice mindfulness of breath, find a comfortable place to sit down, with arms and legs placed squarely and uncrossed. Try to lean slightly forward if it is comfortable. You may close your eyes lightly, and concentrate on the sensation of breathing. If the mind wanders, gently notice that the mind has wandered, then bring your attention back to the sensation of breathing. You may find the mind wander off repeatedly; it is what minds do. Just bring your attention gently back to the sensation of breathing every time you notice the mind has wandered off. By sustained mindfulness practice, you may find that the mind wanders off less and less, and you catch the thoughts arising increasingly quickly. In this way, when thoughts that are not useful arise, you will be able to catch them earlier and not be caught up in them. You may practice for fifteen minutes to start with, or longer if it feels comfortable.

One thing to note, is that there is no need to breathe deeply. Mindfulness of breath is not a breathing exercise. Another thing to keep in mind is that, we practice mindfulness to achieve improved awareness, not to achieve relaxation. Relaxation is merely a by-product of mindfulness, but not the goal of mindfulness.

Mindfulness has already been shown by many scientific researches to be useful in treating depression, anxiety and mood problems. It also enhances wellbeing by reducing emotional reactivity, making you calmer and reduce stress. Further benefits of mindfulness include enhancing concentration, reducing physical pain and improving sleep.

There are a lot more ways to practice mindfulness. Start today to reap the benefits of mindfulness!