Weddings, graduations, celebrations–these are the times when we want to “be in the moment,” to enjoy every second. But it’s more difficult to be present during times of challenge or boredom. Believe it or not, breathing practice can help. Learning to practice mindful awareness during the mundane or the uncomfortable moments can help us to slow down and appreciate the joyful ones.

How do we learn to be present? One way is to create a regular routine that includes breathing and meditation. During this 22-minute practice led by Reverend Tim Burnett, we learn that we can slow down and take time to be still and aware of what is happening. Using the breath as our steady companion, we can practice becoming aware of what is happening in the now – getting in touch with the mind and the body.

Learning new breathing practices can also help with conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you watch a baby sleep, you’ll see the baby’s stomach rise and fall with each breath. Babies naturally breathe with the diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle under the lungs). With chronic lung disease, you may start using your accessory muscles (a combination of muscles in the chest, shoulders, and neck) instead. Using more muscles takes more effort and makes shortness of breath worse.

You can learn to breathe with the diaphragm again. Because you’ll be using only one muscle to breathe instead of many, you’ll use less energy. Learn how to practice Diaphragmatic Breathing in the Veterans Health Library by clicking this link.

More information

Breathing practices can help with day-to-day stress, but sometimes you may need more. Do you need help coping with feelings of anxiety or hopelessness? Do you feel that friends and family just can’t understand what you are going through?

VA is here for you. Check out this video of Veterans who have found the support they needed from other Veterans and VA:

Andrea Young is a Field Implementation Team Consultant with the VHA Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation

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Published on Apr. 29, 2020

Estimated reading time is 1.7 min.

Views to date: 404


  1. Doug Langston May 7, 2020 at 6:33 am

    I must really be an oddball. My life on this earth changed on 9/28/1987 when I woke up in ICU from lung surgery (right thorocotomy) with a pain in myfront right rib cage which I have to this day, Anyway the communication was horible between my surgen and I—Later on I found out he was a work-aholici and had been use to operating in the tents in Vietnam. I’ve been through the 12 step program many times so I know to look in the mirrow and see who the culprit is for my long bout with deppresion which began in 1987 after that surgery. Anyway I’m not a people person but I love everyone. I’m kind of desperate to hook up with someon who plays a string instrument that plays the old gospel,old rock,old country music. Most all of the people I’ve played music with over the past 57 years have died out and Im 77, Any way I jus got over a bad bout with deppression about 5 weeks ago where I had lost interest in everything. Just trying to stay on an even keel–I;m not sleeping well and I definitely am an early morning persom anwhere from 2 to 6 am with 6 am seeming to be my prime time playing and singng alone;I’m a christian and trying so hard to bind Satan and put God first.I

  2. Dennis Smith May 6, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    This exercise was great. I lost a lot of tension.

  3. Barb Danner May 5, 2020 at 2:37 pm

    HI! In 1972 after just joining the USAF. I was raped repeatedly on a trip up the ALCAN highway with another USAF member.
    Among other things that happened to me, my jaw was knocked out of alignment. I am now a mouth breather and cannot do normal breathing. I have read that I lose 30% of oxygen.

    • Kevin Soike May 6, 2020 at 7:07 pm

      A broken jaw shouldn’t affect the nasopharynx. Have you seen an ENT specialist?

    • Doug Langston May 7, 2020 at 6:47 am

      Very sorry for what happened to you. I’m a 77 year old kid that wasn’t allowed to be a child during childhood—I’m a very unique person that is struggling to relate to the rest of the world. I guess the main problem is not having the right words to say to the right person at that given time when you need to say it or forever hold your peace. anyway—who knows

  4. Martin G Hawkins May 2, 2020 at 7:09 am

    I like to get out of my own head, by doing something that I like to do with my hands. So, if you don’t understand how to use the latest technical, then just do something old school by writing a letter to a love one, or show a young one how to write Letters. Keep your self form living in you head.

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