Breathe – Your Mental Health Depends on It

Ethel Gonzales

Proper belly breathing increases the flow of oxygen and has a calming effect on the mind and body. To check if you are breathing properly, lie on your back and put a rubber ducky or favorite toy on your abdomen. The duck should float up and down (not your chest). Sometimes simple things can make a difference. Watch the ducky for a while.

The other is a grounding exercise given to me by a mental health expert. It is divided into four steps. This particular exercise I found to be helpful when feeling unsafe.


1. Grab furniture with hands, open eyes, observe location at the present time.

2. Say to self: My name is ________________, I am ____ years old, today is _______ and I am at _____________ (name the exact location).

3. I am safe, I am not back in the place where they ___________ and __________ me, I am not as vulnerable as I was and the __________ is not happening now.

4. Repeat this until you are calm. Do this 10 times a day if you need to.

The third is a relaxation technique. While doing this you want to create your own location. It should be a favorite place with pleasant memories. It also should be done in a quiet private place. Record the script and play it. If you want, add calm music (instrumental or the sounds of the scenery) it helps take you where you need to be. Mine takes place at the ocean.

Safe Place Relaxation Technique

You are on the Oregon walking out on the beach on the beach. It’s huge and goes and goes and you hear the sound of the waves, it’s calm today not crashing and the sky’s blue.

The sun is shining down on our head and the sand is warm under your feet, you’re walking barefoot and the sound is white and gritty. You walk along looking down at the seashells and the glistening sand where the tide has gone out.

You hear the seagulls over head. The temperature is just perfect. It’s about 80 degrees. The sun feels hot but there is a light sea breeze that ruffles your hair. The smell of the ocean air is of seaweed and sand. It smells good. To your left the waves are breaking against the rocks. You walk into the surf up to the your knees. Life is perfect. The day is perfect.

As a weight loss counselor I called on similar techniques often. I found these steps especially valuable in dealing with woman clients and young girls that I counseled as they battled their weight problems.

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