If you’re a human being, you’re probably breathing right now. In fact, you probably weren’t even thinking about it until I pointed it out. But I’m a clinical social worker who spends a lot of time talking to my clients about when, why, and how to breathe. They want to be more mindful, more intentional, and less reactive, but they struggle to understand why breathing is such an important part of the process. They’re looking for real suggestions and concrete tools, and breathing seems so… minor and obvious. How can something we all do every day without even thinking about it possibly help us break free of habitual behaviors and unhelpful reactions? And what does Mary Poppins, the fictional governess who is “practically perfect in every way,” have to do with any of this?

If you have hesitations about using breathwork to move forward in moments of challenge,I get it. I really do. I spent years rejecting suggestions to breathe; they felt dismissive and patronizing. If someone was telling me to breathe, it’s because I was anxious, stressed, or angry, and I needed a solution. I needed something more powerful than some silly breathing exercise.

What I didn’t understand then was that it’s not always easy to identify the best response to any given situation, and in our haste to just do something, we often end up doing the wrong, or less helpful, thing. We get flooded by strong emotions and overwhelming thoughts, which can make it nearly impossible to think clearly about what’s happening and what to do next.

Mindful breathing, or intentional breathing, not only calms our bodies and emotions, but also gives us a little headspace from the endless stream of thoughts that get in the way of our ability to see clearly. Each time we focus on our breathing, we’re stepping away from the worries about the future or the guilt about the past and coming back into the present moment. Once we get calm and grounded in the present, we’re giving ourselves the best possible chance at moving forward in the most effective, intentional way possible.

My clients understand all of this when I explain it to them in my office, but still struggle with it in the chaos of their daily lives. And that’s when we start talking about Mary Poppins.

You can read the rest of this post over on GrokNation.