Five finger breathing – or how to reboot your brain’s RAM
When we’re stressed or frustrated we can’t think clearly, the ideas are not coming and everything takes twice as long. This exercise shows you how to refocus your mind very quickly and efficiently:
Step 1: Place the index finger of one hand on the outside of the little finger on your other hand. As you breathe in, trace up to the tip of your little finger, and as you breathe out, trace down the inside of your little finger.
Step 2: On your next inhale, trace up the outside of your ring finger, and on the exhale, trace down the inside of your ring finger.
Step 3: Inhale and trace up the outside of your middle finger; exhale and trace down the inside of your middle finger.
Step 4: Continue finger by finger until you’ve traced your entire hand.
Step 5: Reverse the process and trace from your thumb back to your little finger.
Five finger breathing is great, because it brings several of your senses together at the same time. You’re watching and feeling your fingers while you’re paying attention to your breath. This not only requires awareness of multiple senses (seeing and feeling) but an awareness of multiple locations in your body (your two fingers, your two hands and your lungs).
When you’re able to use up your RAM with multi-sensory and multi-location awareness, you can forget what you’re worrying about, even if it’s for a few moments. As you do this, you’re also calming your physiology down, so if those thoughts come back, they won’t be as convincing because they won’t have the same emotional tone. Without that arousal, they have less weight behind them and they’re easier to let go of or not react to.
If you have children in your life, I encourage you to teach them five finger breathing. Then, practise together. You can do this before each meal, before nap time, before bed or during other transition points within the day.
If you notice that you’re starting to get worked up during the day, take a moment to express how you’re feeling. You could say, “Oh, I’m a little stressed right now.” Then enlist your kids’ help, which will empower them, and ask them: “Can you help me calm down by leading me in a five finger breathing?”