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Breath Counting for Mindfulness & Stress Reduction

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Click the “Play” Arrow for an audio version of breath counting:


Breath Counting for Mindfulness & Stress Reduction

Our days can be busy, our minds can wander, we may experience stress or we may get lost in aimless thinking. It is easy to find ourselves overwhelmed by the internal chatter of our mind, or from the clatter of external distractions. Breath counting for mindfulness and stress reduction is based on a zen technique that is simple and highly effective in bringing us back to center, helping us to experience some balance and create a sense of inner peace.  

Breath counting can be done anywhere, anytime: in a quiet, meditative space, or on a noisy bus; at a desk or in walking meditation.  


All you need is two to five minutes when you can close your eyes or gently lower your gaze and breathe.

1. Begin by taking a couple of slow, deep breaths.


2. Slowly inhale and on a slow exhale, count “one” to yourself.

3. Inhale again, and next time you exhale, count “two” and continue to inhale and count on the exhale, up to “five“.

4. Continue to breathe, slowly, gently and after a set of 1 through 5, begin a new set, counting “one on the next exhalation and so on.

5. You may find your attention may wander.  You may lose count, or count on the inhale or go higher than the number five“.

If any of this happens, note it, and simply, without self-criticism, begin again at “one, counting only when you exhale – until you complete 3 cycles.

If you are a beginner – try to practice this technique once a day, beginning a three rounds of the 1..2..3..4..5 count – this should only take two – five minutes.  

As this is a form of Zen meditation practice, it is possible to build on this technique for many more cycles and many more minutes.

Sometimes, we can only “grab” a minute or two, and even one cycle of breath counting:”one – “five“, is enough to bring you a sense of focused, centered, calm.



Posted by: Susan Jewkes Allen, MSW, GCDF

San Francisco Bay Area Career Counselor, Career Coach at Life + Work