For many people, spending 20 minutes lying down, performing a body scan, or focusing on one’s breath with the eyes closed can be quite challenging due to their busy schedules. The Three Minute Breathing Space exercise can be used as an effective practice to integrate mindfulness into daily life. A structural implementation of the exercise can be achieved using a timer at fixed moments during the day. In this way, the exercise can become automatized.
The exercise commonly involves the following three steps: The first step is asking oneself, “Where am I?” “How am I?” “What am I thinking?” In this way, one steps outside the “doing mode” for a moment, disrupts habitual patterns, and becomes aware of the current experience. The second step involves a single focus on attention. Attention is directed away from thinking and focuses on the breath. During the third and the last step, attention is expanded to include awareness of body sensations. The focus here is on the body as a whole. The Three Minute Breathing Space exercise involves a direct way of coping, characterized by awareness and willingness to experience what is present.
■ In the beginning, clients can be instructed to do the exercise three times a day at set times. When the exercise becomes a habit, clients can be instructed to use it not only at the pre-determined times, but also when they feel need, such as when they feel worried or stressed. Consequently, the Three Minute Breathing Space exercise helps integrate meditation practice into daily life.
The exercise consists of 3 sections (1 minute per section):
1. Awareness: Ask yourself the question: How am I doing right now? Focus your attention on your inner perception. Notice which thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations you are experiencing. Try to translate your experiences into words. For example, “I have self-critical thoughts” or “I notice I am tensed.” What are you feeling in your body? Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling in the current moment. Accept it. You can tell yourself that it’s okay what you’re feeling; whatever is there is fine just the way it is.
2. Breathing: Next, focus your full attention on your breath. Follow the breathing with your attention.
3. Expansion of attention: Allow your attention to expand to the rest of your body. Feel how your breath moves throughout your whole body. With every in-breath, you can feel how your body expands a little, and with each out-breath, how it shrinks a little. Note: During this exercise, your attention might get distracted by certain thoughts or feelings. Notice this experience. You can decide to observe these thoughts and feelings for a while and then return your attention to your breath or body.