What is box breathing?
Box breathing is a powerful, yet simple, relaxation technique that aims to return breathing to its normal rhythm. This breathing exercise may help to clear the mind, relax the body, and improve focus.
The technique is also known as “resetting your breath” or four-square breathing. It is easy to do, quick to learn, and can be a highly effective technique for people in stressful situations.
People with high-stress jobs, such as soldiers and police officers, often use box breathing when their bodies are in fight-or-flight mode. This technique is also relevant for anyone interested in re-centering themselves or improving their concentration.
The box breathing method
Box breathing is a simple technique that a person can do anywhere, including at a work desk or in a cafe. Before starting, people should sit with their back supported in a comfortable chair and their feet on the floor.
- Close your eyes. Breathe in through your nose while counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
- Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
- Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.
- Repeat steps 1 to 3 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until calm returns.
If someone finds the technique challenging to begin with, they can try counting to three instead of four. Once someone is used to the technique, they may choose to count to five or six.
Why breath is vital to health
Box breathing can help to positively affect emotions and mental well-being.
Resetting one’s breath, or working to make the breath leave fight-or-flight mode, is good for both the mind and body.
The unconscious body, or the autonomic nervous system, refers to the functions that take place without any thought, such as the heart beating or the stomach digesting food. This system can be in a fight-or-flight or rest-and-digest state.
In fight-or-flight mode, the body feels threatened and reacts to help the person escape or avoid a threatening situation. Among other things, the body releases hormones to make the heart beat faster, breathing to quicken, and to boost blood sugar levels.
Having this state of stress activated too often, or for too long, has adverse consequences on health, however. The physical impact of this state can cause wear and tear on every system in the body.
Long-term stress can increase the risk of conditions that include:
The ability to consciously regulate breath allows the body to leave a state of stress and enter into a state of calm.