Listen, Breathe, Speak: 3 Strategies to Become Mentally Better Every Day


By, Alexis Miller – O2X Specialist


In thinking about getting 1% better every day, most of us think about the physical body: working out, getting better sleep and eating healthy. Certainly, those are wonderful and effective paths for improving one’s overall health and well-being. However, there’s an important aspect of self-improvement that we cannot forget: mental health. 


What I mean by “mental health:” is how you focus your mental energy on your well-being and becoming the master of the mind. It’s bringing congruence to the body and the mind so you can move forward with clarity, purpose and easeful (but powerful) effort. 


To improve mentally each day, we have to take an active approach in focusing on our mental health. That may look like seeking the services of mental health professionals. It can also include three, simple but effective practices that you can incorporate into your weekly (if not daily) routine: iRest, breathing practices and mantra meditation. 


Listen – iRest Yoga Nidra

If we want to improve ourselves, we first have to listen to what our bodies and minds are trying to tell us. 

What It Is

iRest – short for Integrative Restoration – is a form of guided meditation that leads you through a systematic examination of the various levels of your being. As you listen to the instructor, you’re guided into noticing and working with whatever may arise in the form of physical sensations, the breath, feelings, emotions, thoughts, beliefs and joy. iRest guides you into experiencing the present moment with an openness and a sense of ease, no matter the circumstances you’re facing. 

Why It’s Effective

This style of meditation leads you through experiencing whatever is arising for you – pain, discomfort, challenge – and helps you work with those experiences. It’s a form of self-inquiry that helps you step back from your circumstances and notice them without becoming fused with them. 


Research shows that it decreases symptoms of chronic pain, depression, stress, anxiety, PTSD and insomnia while increasing heart-rate variability, mindfulness, quality sleep, overall well-being and the ability to cope with stress. 


It’s a practice that anyone can do – regardless of their experience with meditation. It can be done at any time of the day. And the best part? You can even fall asleep during the practice and still get the benefits of it. 

How to Practice

Practicing only requires the most basic of equipment: yourself, a quiet space and an instructor. iRest (sometimes referred to as “yoga nidra”) practices are everywhere – on the O2X App, YouTube, podcasting platforms, or in-person like at O2X workshops. 


A good instructor not only has experience in delivering this style of meditation but also has a voice that’s easy for you to listen to and a cadence that feels soothing. If you don’t like a particular instructor, find a different one before giving up on the practice. 

When to Practice

One of the best things about iRest is that you can practice nearly any time of the day. In the morning, as a way to start the day; in the middle of the day, as a way to reset and refresh the mind; at the end of the day, as a way to calm the body and mind and prepare for sleep; in the middle of the night, as a way to help you fall back asleep and stay asleep; or when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need to calm down. 


Practices can range from five to 45 minutes. 

Breathe – Calming Breathing Practices

To bring congruence to the body and mind, we must learn to breathe properly. And yes, there is a way to properly breathe.  

What It Is

There are many styles of breathing practices. However, the ones that will support you in long-term healing and health are the calming practices. They not only retrain our bodies how to breathe, but they help regulate our nervous systems. 

Why it’s effective

Our breath is the only function of the autonomic nervous system that we can actively control. This means that when our sympathetic nervous system (responsible for the “Fight/Flight/Freeze” response) is on as a result of feeling stress from an event – we have the ability to shut it off. 


This is important. It means that we can calm our bodies and minds, simply through the act of breathing. And, just in case you didn’t already know, that costs “free ninety-nine.” That means no matter where you are or what you’re doing, as long as you can breathe, you can calm yourself down

How to practice

Like iRest, breathing practices only require the most basic of equipment: yourself, your breath and practice (either with an instructor or one you’ve memorized). There are breathing practices everywhere on YouTube, podcasting platforms, or with instructors in-person. 


Some of the practices to look out for are: 



When to practice

Breathing practices can support you any time of the day. They’re a way to regulate your nervous system, bring clarity to the mind and refresh the oxygen levels in your body. They’re incredibly effective right before bed or after a challenging situation – as they help you feel more at ease. If you need to feel calm and focused, doing a 5 or 10-minute breathing practice will serve you well. 


Practices can range from a few deep breaths to 30 minutes. 

Speak – Mantra Meditation

To coalesce our desires and our actions, we must speak to ourselves in a way that supports our goals. Mantra meditation doesn’t have to be some weird religious thing; think of it more as motivational self-talk.   

What It Is

A “mantra” is a word or phrase repeated to oneself that has a special meaning. Like breathing practices, there are different styles of mantra meditation. The one that benefits tactical athletes, however, is the type that incorporates simple, clear language, in the present tense that focuses on what one wants, instead of what one wants to avoid. It can be secular, goal-oriented or values-based. 

Why it’s effective

We speak to ourselves all day long. Whether we have a running commentary in our heads or thoughts pop in and out, there’s no doubt that we talk to ourselves. When we create mantras, some research indicates that referring to ourselves in the third person (i.e. “Alexis is calm and peaceful,” instead of “I am calm and peaceful”) enhances self-distancing and makes introspection more effective. 


In addition, there’s an equation that helps us better understand how our thoughts affect everything we do: 


Thoughts → Actions → Habits → Character → Destiny


In focusing on our goal or what we want to bring into our lives, we start to orient our actions in that direction. Actions, repeated enough times, become habits. Our habits are a reflection of our character. And our character is what leads us to our destiny – the legacy we leave behind. 


This means the thoughts we have around how we’re going to improve 1x better everyday matter – as they lead us to living out that desired goal. 


How to practice

While there’s no limit to what a mantra can look like for you, there are some helpful guidelines that will make it effective:


  • It’s easy to remember

  • It uses clear, simple language

  • It’s meaningful for you

  • It helps you stay connected to the present moment and your goals for your life


It will likely take some time to develop a powerful, memorable and meaningful personal mantra. But when you do, you’ll find that in moments of challenge, your mantra will automatically arise in your mind and be there to support you. 


When to practice

Your mantra is an anytime kind of practice. Say it to yourself while you sit in silent meditation; coordinate it with your breath during a breathing practice; say it to yourself throughout the day to help you stay oriented with the type of life you want to live.

Practices can range from a few seconds to 30 minutes. 

That’s it. Listen. Breathe. Speak. Three simple tools that anyone can do, almost anywhere, to improve 1% mentally every day. The more you do these practices, the more apparent and pronounced the benefits become in the body and the mind. Caring for your mental health doesn’t have to be difficult; find ways to incorporate these practices into your weekly routine and I guarantee you will start experiencing meaningful change. 



National Center for Biotechnology Information. (2018). The Role of Mindfulness in Reducing the Adverse Effects of Childhood Stress and Trauma. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 11(2), 173-180.

Harvard Health Publishing. (n.d.). Understanding the stress response. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from

iRest. (n.d.). iRest Research. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from

iRest Institute. (n.d.). About iRest Institute. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from

Psychology Today. (n.d.). Self-Talk. Retrieved Month Day, Year, from

Wife in the Wild Blue Yonder. (n.d.). Podcast. Retrieved April 26, 2024, from

About O2X Instructor Alexis Miller:        

Alexis Miller is a writer, podcast host, creator, digital marketer and yoga/meditation instructor. Alexis is an O2X Yoga and iRest Specialist. She is a 500-Hour RYT; iRest Level 1 Certified Teacher; Certified Warriors at Ease Teacher; and a Radiant Child Yoga Approved Teacher. She has a degree in Journalism and Entrepreneurship from the University of St. Thomas. Alexis is a published writer, covering topics that range from health/wellness to business to creative writing. She’s the voice behind Wild Blue Yonder Meditations. Alexis has years of experience creating digital marketing strategies for start-ups, non-profits and established for-profit organizations. She’s a passionate yoga/meditation instructor with over 1,500 hours of teaching – including for o2x. Alexis is an avid world traveler, dedicated reader, outdoor sports enthusiast and an Air Force spouse. She lives with her husband, Sean, and their Australian Shepherds, Josie and Heath. 


About O2X Human Performance:

O2X Human Performance provides comprehensive, science-backed programs to hundreds of public safety departments, federal agencies, and the military. O2X works with clients to elevate culture, improve mental and physical wellbeing, support healthy lifestyles, and reduce healthcare costs associated with injuries and illnesses. Driven by results and cutting edge research, O2X programs are designed and delivered by a team of Special Operations veterans, high level athletes, and hundreds of leading experts in their respective fields of human performance.