Blog: Mindful Breathing

Posted: May 5, 2022
Author: Dajana Ibradzic, MSW Student

Description of Intervention

Mindfulness is all about being present in the moment. It includes focusing on your breathing, thoughts, and body without judgement. According to the book, "Mindfulness was created to increase alertness and train the mind to concentrate and that it's been shown to help clients develop the coping skill of nonreaction to a cognitive urge through the "act of inaction." (Chan, Lee, Leung, & Ng, 2018). The Mental Health Foundation mentions that mindfulness affects well-being in many ways. This includes help with understanding emotions, coping with difficult thoughts, calmness, increase in concentration, and improve relationships. The Good Body website states, "Since 2012 the number of people practicing meditation has tripled, globally between 200 and 500 million people meditate, and general wellness is the number one reason people gave for meditating." (The Good Body, 2022).

Historical and Cultural Origins

"Mindfulness originates from ancient eastern and Buddhist philosophy, dating back around 2,500 years." (Physiopedia, 2022). It was brought to the western world by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979. According to Physiopedia, Kabat-Zinn first experienced mindfulness through practicing with various  Zen Buddhist meditation teachers. Kabat-Zinn then, "Secularized historical Buddhist mindfulness principles by untangling them from the cultural, religious, and ideological factors associated with Buddhism and orienting them to the Western mind and culture." (Physiopedia, 2022). This led to the development of the first mindfulness-based intervention called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).

Philosophical and Theoretical Foundations

In mindfulness, Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path is important. The intention with the eightfold path is to end suffering. According to the Tricycle magazine, "The eight parts of the path to liberation are grouped into three essential elements of Buddhist practice ethical conduct, mental disciple, and wisdom." (Rahula, 2022). Tricycle magazine mentions that the Noble Eightfold Path includes right understanding (understanding things as they are), right thought (love and peace), right speech (speak kindly of others), right action (do right), right livelihood (don't bring harm to others), right effort (prevent evil), right mindfulness (be aware), and right concentration (discipline). It was said that it is important to understand that the eight categories shouldn't be thought to practice one after another, but more so to be practiced depending on the individual and what they want to practice in the moment.

Literature Review of Intervention

My population of interest is the Geriatric population. With that being said, my first article is how MBSR reduces loneliness in older adults and my second article is on how 5 minute mindful breathing reduces stress for palliative care patients and their families.

For the first research study, participants were older adults (age 55-85) that were randomly selected through a newspaper advertisement. To qualify for the study, "Participants had to be English speaking, not currently practicing any mind-body therapies more than once per week, non-smokers, mentally and physically healthy for the last three months, and not currently taking medications that affect immune, cardiovascular, endocrine, or psychiatric functioning." (Arevalo, Breen, Burklund, Cole, Creswell, Irwin, Lieberman, & Ma, 2012). Participants then were asked to complete different kinds of study measures (questionnaires assessing loneliness and a blood sample). After, participants were randomized in either a 8 week MBSR program or a wait list control condition. The MBSR sessions were conducted by trained clinicians that included 8 weekly 120 minute group sessions, a day long retreat in the sixth and seventh week, and 30 minutes of daily home mindfulness practice. The results showed that the MBSR participants had significant decreases in loneliness compared to the wait list participants.

For the second research study, it consisted of 20 patients and family caregivers who had moderate to severe distress with a score of 4 or more. It was said that participants were, "excluded if they were noncommunicative, deemed confused, or having reduced conscious level." (American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, 2015). It consisted of two groups. The intervention group being the mindful breathing group and the control group receiving a 5-minute listening session. The mindful breathing group were told to participate in 5-minute mindful breathing sessions, making sure they were fully relaxed with their focus being on their breathing. The mindful listening group were asked open-ended questions on their experiences of illness for patients and experiences of caregiving for family members. The results showed that reduction of stress was greater during the mindful breathing sessions and that 5 minutes of listening didn't reduce stress levels.

For the first research study, it was mentioned that one limitation was the use of the waiting list control group. It was said that, "It is possible that observed changes in loneliness in MBSR vs. WL control could be explained by non-specific factors that include social support or participant contact with an instructor." (Arevalo, Breen, Burklund, Cole, Creswell, Irwin, Lieberman, & Ma, 2012). For the second research study, it was mentioned that there were several limitations. One being the sample size was too small and another being that it was not differentiated what symptoms patients were suffering from.

Training Necessary

There are many reasons why I love mindful breathing, but one of the top reasons would definitely have to be that training is not necessary to practice it. It is something that can be done by anyone. As I mentioned earlier, you can tweak mindful breathing and make it your own and to your own liking. Watching videos as a guide or even having background music is something that can be done, but once again a professional doesn't need to be present. According to the Mental Health Foundation, there are some instances where courses needed to be taken. This includes mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) which is aimed to help people with depression and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) which involves meditation and yoga to help reduce stress levels and people with depression, anxiety, and pain.


Mindfulness can be a very useful self-care tool for a social worker. Working with clients, listening to their stories, and even personal things can make it tough for social workers. Especially since the pandemic. I'm sure everyone can agree that times are tough and burnout is real! Mindfulness is something that can be practiced to help calm nerves, lower stress levels, focus on the present moment (away from work and problems), and much more. The best part is that it can be done without a professional. With that being said, I really can't think of any barriers. I guess not doing it the same exact moment while working with a client. It should definitely be something you do at appropriate times.

Application in Social Work

Mindfulness can be very beneficial to clients. Especially clients with high stress and anxiety levels, depression, pain, and much more. It can also be something the client can do on their own, when needed. A contraindication with mindfulness would be not doing it with a client that is in active psychosis. My current internship is at a nursing home/rehabilitation center. I work with different age groups, but majority of it being older adults. With mindfulness being so easily accessible and not requiring much physical work, I can practice on the older adults and the other age groups. With old age comes physical limitations and like I've mentioned this doesn't require much physical activity. Many of the residents have mental health disabilities where mindfulness would be beneficial to them. The NASW Code of Ethics states that the value service is, "Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems." (NASW, 2022). As a social worker, it is important to provide proper care and service to the client. Mindful breathing is something that can help a client experiencing difficult times.


The NASW Code of Ethics states that the value service is, "Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems." (NASW, 2022). As a social worker, it is important to provide proper care and service to the client. Mindful breathing is something that can help a client experiencing difficult times.

View more blog posts and the references noted above.