Mindful breathing is an exercise for focusing your attention. Like exercising a muscle, focusing your attention gets stronger with practice. Practice develops both skill and your brain’s structure. A great routine is to practice every morning and every night… for at least 12 minutes a day.


Mindful breathing is a skill.  Mindful breathing is just the ability to sit quietly, with eyes closed or slightly open, resting, not moving, keeping your attention on your breathing. It sounds easy.  But if you try, you will soon find that your mind may wander.  When it does, calmly and without judgment, acceptingly recognize and label where your attention went, and gently bring it back to being aware of the sensations of breathing. Every time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. Each time you gently bring awareness back on task, your attention skill gets stronger.


  • Sit comfortably balanced & upright in a quiet place w/o distractions, eyes closed, feet flat on the floor.
  • Attend to the sensations of breathing through your nose while belly breathing.
  • If your mind wanders, notice where it goes, and label what your mind was doing,
    e.g., “puzzling,” “planning,” “recalling,” “rehearsing dialogue,” “judging,” “ itching,” etc.
  • Recognize or be aware of where your attention went to, notice, accept and then without judgment,
  • Gently return your awareness to the sensation of your breathing.
  • All this happens while sitting quietly, not moving and not thinking about moving other than breathing.


If you have a lot of difficulty keeping your attention on your breath, then you may want to try:


Counting your breaths, each complete cycle, (in) “1”/(out) “1”, (in) “2” /(out) “2”, (in) “3”/ (out) “3”… This silent counting works wonders to help focus your mind on the sensations of breathing.


Find the Beginning/End of each In/Out Breath to see: Where does your in-breath begin & end? Where does your out-breath begin/end?  Maybe using this approach can better help maintain your attention on your breathing?  Is it easier to use this technique?  Does it help?


Doubling Try breathing in to the count of four and exhaling to the count of 8 or more. Exhaling tends to activate the parasympathetic system whereas inhaling tends to activate the sympathetic system.



20 Minute Seated Meditation guided by Steven Hickman, Director, UCSD Center for Mindfulness