Box breathing: What it is and how can you benefit?

Box breathing. Sounds like a new trend on social media, or something vaguely claustrophobic. 

Fortunately, it’s neither of those things. Here’s what it is, why so many people are trying it, and how you could benefit from this incredibly simple technique. 

What is box breathing? 

Box breathing is a basic technique to reduce stress and increase mental clarity that involves four steps: 

  1. Breathe in for four seconds
  2. Hold that breath for four seconds
  3. Breathe out for four seconds
  4. Repeat steps one through three until you feel calmer

The idea is to keep box breathing until you feel better, but you should aim for a minimum of 30 seconds for each session. 

Benefits of box breathing 

Aside from being a quick and simple de-stressing technique that you can do practically anywhere, there are some real benefits you might experience with box breathing. 

Stress and anxiety reduction 

Like any good meditation, one of the key benefits of box breathing is its ability to help manage stress and anxiety.    

Many of those who turn to breathing exercises try this in the hopes of dealing with stress and anxiety. But sometimes, taking a moment to relax and focus on your breathing can help to make you feel a whole bunch better. 

Improved focus and mental clarity 

In a tutorial video on box breathing, Goldie from Anxiety New Zealand explains how this technique can calm the mind. 

“Our breathing and our mindset are really closely linked. It is of course quite difficult to control our thoughts, but it can actually be quite easy to control our breathing. So by taking deep, slow breaths, we can signal to our body that we’re safe and that we can relax,” she states. 

In other words, taking control of your breathing may help to take control of your mental state as well. 

Enhanced physical performance 

An unexpected benefit of breath-focused practices such as box breathing can be increased physical performance. 

Breathing techniques can help athletes to control their physiological and psychological reactions to stress, which can in turn boost their performance. 

Technology to help with box breathing 

If you’re not quite sure how to get started, there are plenty of apps that offer guided breathing techniques and meditations to walk you through the basics. 

Breathe: Relax & Focus for example is a great free option and is available on Google Play and the iTunes Store. Box breathing is one of the three default breathing exercises, and it comes with reminders to help you keep up the habit. 

Or for something more specific, you can download the Box Breathe app, which is entirely dedicated to this technique. This will track your progress, remind you to do the exercise regularly, and more. 

And of course, you can use the timer app on your phone for a simple, easy way to track your sets of four seconds. 

Reduce your stress 

Keep in mind, box breathing can be a great way to manage stress – but it doesn’t remove the source. If you can, target the source of your stress as well.

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