It is well known that dental visit expectation can be very stressful for many patients. While in the dental waiting room the mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) can be practiced to reduce the visit apprehension.

One of the MBCT practices is a "breathing break". Our breath is a window into knowing and regulating our mind-body. When we breathe in, our heart rate goes up. When we exhale, our heart rate goes down. By having a longer exhalation than inhalation, we can slow our heart rate more, and we can also stimulate the vagus nerve. Breathing into our lower belly ( abdominal breathing) stimulates the sensory pathways of the vagus nerve that go directly to our brain, which has an even more calming effect.

Focus narrowly on the breath, and then expand awareness out to your full surrounding. 

Here is one of the versions of the breathing break:


1) Becoming aware: Sit upright and close your eyes. Connect with your breathing for long inhalation and exhalation. With this awareness, ask yourself, " What is my experience right now? What are my thoughts? Feelings? Bodily sensations?" Wait for responses. Acknowledge your experience and label your feelings, even if they are unwanted. Notice any pushing space for all that comes up in your awareness.


2) Gathering your attention: Gently direct your full attention to your breathing. Notice each inhalation and each long exhalation. Follow each breath, one after another. Tune in to a state of stillness, it will allow you to come from a place of being.


3) Expanding your awareness: Sense your field of awareness expanding around you. Notice your posture, your hands, your toes, your facial muscles. Soften any tension. Befriend all of your sensations, greet them with kindness. With this expanded awareness connect with your whole being, encompassing all that is you in the present moment.


Source: “The Telomere Effect” by Nobel Prize Winner Elizabeth Blackburn and Elissa Epel