It really isn’t any secret that deep breathing is beneficial in helping manage stressful situations. Did you know that being present or mindful when doing the deep breathing exercises also improves sleep, lowers blood pressure, reduces pain, enhances mental clarity, and can cleanse the lungs? Taking a few moments to concentrate and breathe deeply calms not just the mind but the body. Most of all, it is free and anyone can do it!
There are several ways to practice deep breathing but it’s always a good idea to try something new. We try to keep you in the loop and build your toolbox of skills so that when you need it, you can try new ones out to see what fits. Today, we are exploring Box Breathing.
Benefits of box breathing
Box breathing can reduce stress and improve your mood. That makes it an exceptional treatment for conditions such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression. It can also help treat insomnia by allowing you to calm your nervous system at night before bed. Box breathing can even be efficient at helping with pain management.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there’s sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system regulates involuntary body functions such as temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost immediate sense of calm. The slow holding of breath allows CO2 to build up in the blood. An increased blood CO2enhances the cardio-inhibitory response of the vagus nerve when you exhale and stimulates your parasympathetic system. This produces a calm and relaxed feeling in the mind and body. We love the parasympathetic system- that where our inner calm thrives!
The Box Breathing technique can be beneficial to anyone, especially those who want to manage stress and increase resiliency. It’s used by everyone from athletes to U.S. Navy SEALs, police officers, and nurses. Former Navy SEAL, Mark Divine, creator of the SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind fitness programs shared how Box Breathing helped him in stressful times. He said, “I used it every day in SEAL training…it helped me graduate as the honor man, [the] number one graduate. Now I use it for every challenging situation, and practice it daily.”
I personally, like to start my day off with maybe 2 or three rounds. It gives me a chance to shake the cobwebs out of my head and get centered for the day. I also tend to use this technique at the end of the workday to give my brain a chance to reset.
What is box breathing?
Box breathing is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever. There are so many variations. I simply encourage you to try different techniques. Keep using ones that feel good and let go of the ones that do not seem helpful.
Although You don’t need a visual aid but it can give you something on which to concentrate while you learn a new way to deep breathe. We are giving you a few different ones to try.
Getting started with box breathing.
Box Breathing is a technique where you take slow, deep breaths while counting to four while you breathe in, hold for four, breathe out for four, hold for four. While breathing and counting, imagine a square.
Before you get started, make sure that you’re seated upright in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Try to be in a stress-free, quiet environment where you can focus on your breathing.
One thing to remember, if thoughts come in your mind while you are doing this, notice them and let them go. Gently shift your attention back to your breath.
Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. You should be sitting up straight. This will help you take deep breaths. When you’re ready, start with step 1.
Step 1: Slowly exhale
Sitting upright, slowly exhale through your mouth, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you’re doing.
Step 2: Slowly inhale
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head.
Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full and the air moves into your abdomen.
Step 3: Hold your breath
Hold your breath for another slow count of four.
Step 4: Exhale again
Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen.
Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.
Step 5: Hold your breath again
Hold your breath for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.
Tips for beginners
If you’re new to box breathing, it may be difficult to get the hang of it. You may get dizzy after a few rounds. This is normal. As you practice it more often, you’ll be able to go longer without the dizziness. If you get dizzy, stay sitting for a minute and resume normal breathing.
To help you focus on your breathing, find a quiet, dimly lit environment to practice box breathing. This isn’t at all necessary to perform the technique, but it can help you focus on the practice if you’re new to it. If you’re using a visual aid, follow the four sides of a square. Each step is a corner of the square; as you count to four, move along one side of the square at a time. You can use anything square-shaped around you – a post-it note, a mouse pad, etc. Another way to visualize while square breathing is to imagine you’re running bases in a baseball diamond in slow motion. To start out, we recommend using GIFs that can provide you with a point of concentration. After a few sessions of square breathing, you’ll be able to visualize the square in your mind while breathing deeply.
Ideally, you’ll want to repeat the box breathing cycle four times in one sitting.
Do box breathing several times a day as needed to calm your nerves and relieve stress. Before long, you will be able to shake those cobwebs out, re-center, and calmly navigate through life- even when it gets messy. With only four steps, mastering box breathing is possible for anyone looking to add more consciousness and relaxation to their daily routine. Go ahead, give it a go! Get boxed!