Box Breathing

When you’re stressed, or even if you’re feeling OK but want to test out the potential benefits of meditation, one of the main things experts will tell you is to work on your breathing. That’s fine, but how exactly do you control your breath until you’re clear-headed and relaxed? Consider box breathing (

There are lots of ways you can breathe if you’re trying to work on mindfulness and improve your mental wellbeing. Box breathing is one of the simpler ones, and it’s something you can do at any time and in any place. There’s no need for fancy equipment; you just need to be able to count to four.

Just breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, and hold for a count of four before repeating. It sounds pretty easy, but there’s more to it than you might expect. You’ll probably need to start slow and build your capacity.

Box breathing can help release the physical tension of your body’s stress response, or “fight or flight mode”. Not only will you feel the benefits in your lungs, but your heart rate and blood pressure will come down, reducing strain on your cardiovascular system. More oxygen in your blood means a better supply to the rest of your body, including your heart and brain.

Then you have the less tangible benefits. Box breathing can bring you to a greater awareness of your own body and how it exists in the present moment. With no distractions or abstract worries, you get a clear-headed focus on the here and now. Whether there’s an immediate cause of your stress or you’re trying to deal with more chronic anxiety, it’s a powerful tool.

This isn’t just some wishy-washy idea for hippies. There is a growing body of scientific research supporting the theory that controlled breathing is good for both physical and mental wellbeing, particularly in helping you deal with stress. Psychologists and psychiatrists often recommend it for patients with anxiety disorders, including PTSD.

People have been using breathing as a tool for stress relief and increased mental clarity for thousands of years in yoga, religion and everyday life. Box breathing is part of a long and often effective tradition that can be considered alongside other relaxation and mindfulness techniques, including other controlled breathing exercises.

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