Box Breathing Technique: What is it & How May it Benefit You?
Box breathing can be used to help relax the body and mind quickly, yet effectively. This relaxation technique is designed to induce a sense of calm and serenity within practitioners. Also known as square breathing, this technique is used for different purposes, but is used oftentimes in practices such as meditation, yoga or to help reduce symptoms of stress.
There are in fact many different types of breathing techniques. Breathing techniques like yogic breathing has been studied to help balance the autonomic nervous system and influence psychological and stress related disorders. Heck, breathing techniques have even been used to decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety for pre-term women in labor, reporting that abdominal breathing is an effective nursing intervention for these women!
As most people would attest, breathing in of itself is an involuntary mechanism of the body, however there is also a voluntary aspect to it. Box breathing, deep breathing and other types of breathing techniques allow individuals to manipulate there breathing efforts in a way to achieve a goal. In this case the goal is usually to focus and calm the body and mind.
Breathing techniques like diaphragmatic breathing have shown the ability to help significantly increase sustained attention, and lower cortisol levels post intensive training activity.
In practices such as meditation, breath becomes somewhat of an art, and is used to help focus and stabilized the self. Individuals involved in the medical field, first responders, as well as even Navy Seal's use box breathing to help stay calm and focused in times of heightened stressful situations. However, this breathing technique can truly be used anytime and anywhere, by anyone.
Some people refer to box breathing as a way of "resetting your breath", slowing the breath in an effort to not just calm the self, but at the same time deepen concentration. This is an apt description. When you're under pressure, it can feel like you're on the brink of physical collapse at times (oftentimes this is a time your body goes into fight or flight mode). Your chest tightens and you feel like you cannot breathe properly. Box breathing lowers this uncomfortable feeling and keeps you focused, and able to better complete complex tasks at hand.
What Is The Box Breathing Method?
You might be wondering what is the box breathing method, and how can you practice it? In this next section, we'll talk about the steps you can take to successfully perform box breathing. It's important to note, we'll talk "ideal" settings for box breathing, however it can also been done in less ideal settings with practice.
Ideally, the first step of box breathing is to find a comfortable area. However, once you know the basics of this technique, it can be performed in a more populated area where "a comfortable spot" may not be immediately found.
Like with the practice of meditation, ideally you'll be in a sitting position, spine upright, pelvis slightly tilted forward.
Close your eyes. Attempt to release tensions from the body.
Next, inhale though your nares. Count your breath for a count of 4 seconds. Feel your lungs filling with air, maximizing your oxygen intake. Your lungs should feel full at the end of inhalation. Don't passively breath in, feel the sensation of breathing as it helps to center your body.
Once you've taken in your breath, don't exhale right away. Instead, hold it for another count of 4, allowing gas exchange to maximize with this interval.
Now, exhale your breath for another count of 4. After deflating your lungs, hold for another 4 seconds before inhaling again.
You'll want to repeat these steps for a sustained amount of time, as many individuals in a controlled environment will set a soft alarm for 3-5, or 5-10 minutes, etc.
Why Is Box Breathing So Effective?
Breath is an essential component of relaxation and is used in many other techniques that combat stress and anxiety. To put it in simple terms, if your breath is out of rhythm, it is much harder to remain calm in stressful situations. This is most noticeable when you're stressed and in fight or flight mode.
In this situation, your heart rate increases, your muscles tense, and your breath may even become shallow and shortened. You can feel like you're gasping for air. In some cases, this reaction is justified and is an important normal function and reaction of the body. However, there are many daily situations where our bodies overreact and can create both short and long term related issues.
The first step to regain a sense of calm and reduce stress during fight or flight is through basic breathing techniques. Once you've mastered getting your breath under control through box breathing, the rest of your body will follow suit.
What Are The Benefits of Box Breathing?
1. Reduces The Physical Strain Of Stress On The Body
One of the biggest issues with stress is the strain it places on your body. Years and years of continuous stress without any attempts to lessen it can create health issues. Numerous studies have shown that high-stress individuals are more likely to die of heart attacks and other chronic illnesses.
If you can get your stress under control with box breathing or other stress relieving activities, you may lessen the physical impacts of stress on your health. Box breathing effectively manages stress by resetting your breath, helping to minimize stress on the body, helping to get your mind and bodies stress response back to baseline quicker.
Even in a 1-day retreat to reduce burnout pilot study among mental health professionals, showed that 6-weeks post intervention the staff reported a decrease in emotional exhaustion, and increases in positive views towards consumers. This was not specific to the "box breathing technique", but it showed that there are interventions that can help when it comes to stress and burnout.
2. You Become More Focused And Sharp
Not only may box breathing get you out of fight or flight mode faster, but it also keeps you sharp and focused. After dealing with anxiety and stress we tend to feel worn down and out of sorts.
It can even effect ability retrieve memory, as well as "hampering the updating of memories in the light of new information" in children in the classroom setting. It is known that chronic stress, can inhibit the brains ability to form memories.
Sustained attention may be improved by proper diaphragmatic breathing techniques. According to another study on mindfulness and breath counting found that this technique was correlated to some extent to better focus ("more meta awareness, less mind wondering") and a more positive outlook (better mood").
3. Your Mood Gets A Boost
In addition to a heightened focus, decreased overall stress symptoms, and calm sense about you, the cumulative effect can have you feeling better overall. Several studies have shown the ability of slow controlled breathing exercises to increase the work of the parasympathetic nervous system, measured by decreases in both blood pressure and heart rate.
Some research has shown that this relaxing breathing technique can even quell symptoms of depression.
4. You Will Cope Better With Stress
Stress response is a learned reaction. You may not be able to ever completely get rid of stressors, but interventions like box breathing and patience can help reduce the effects..
Many of us get into a situation that is complicated or stressful and how you cope with the situation largely determines the physical and mental outcomes within the body. Sometimes, changing the stressful situation that you know will arise is not possible, so educating yourself how to cope with the scenario is vital.
A research study on "learning and memory under stress" states that, potential stressful situation do not necessarily lead to stress response, it's the individual appraisal of the situation and coping strategies that may result in the activation of the stress systems".
With box breathing though, you may be able to change your behavior as far as how your body reacts to stressful situations.
Hopefully, with this information, you can start changing the way you deal with stress, and start box breathing successfully!
Please share your experiences with box breathing and other forms of stress relief in the comments section of the blog that way to better help our community! Have a great day!