I recently heard box breathing again in Chris Hemsworth’s “Limitless.” When I first explored breathing techniques a few years ago, I experimented with this one. It involves breathing in for four seconds, holding for four seconds, exhaling for four seconds and holding for four seconds. I now complete this technique utilising six seconds. After hearing about this again, I thought it would be beneficial to write about some steps, the importance of this simple technique and the benefits that can be gained from this practice. 

What is Box Breathing?

Web MD’s article “What is Box Breathing?” explains that Box breathing can also be called square breathing. It is a deep breathing technique that helps you slow down your breath to relax. When you breathe fast, it can increase stress in your body, but when you breathe slowly and deeply with this technique, it helps decrease stress and calm the nervous system. As discussed previously, it involves breathing in for four seconds, holding your breath for four seconds, slowly exhaling for four seconds and holding for four seconds. If you cannot do this for four seconds, starting with two or three seconds will help you build up your tolerance until you reach four seconds.

You can repeat this exercise for as long as you need to feel recentered and relaxed. It would help if you were deep breathing, which involves you moving your stomach up on the inhale and down on the exhale. You are shallow breathing if you are solely using your chest and not your stomach. Try to take deep breaths and move your stomach up and down. It helps me sit on a chair or lie down, which helps me relax further. You can also put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest, which helps me feel my stomach and chest rising. Sunnybrook’s video “Box breathing relaxation technique: how to calm feelings of stress or anxiety” creates a visualisation of going around the four different box sides every four seconds, which may be helpful for you to think about when you are doing this technique. You may want to watch this video to visualise the information and steps for box breathing.

Why Is This Simple Technique Important?

The coolest thing about box breathing is that you can practice it anywhere – at work, at home, in public, or stressful situations. You can practice it whenever you want to calm your mind and body. Focusing on my breathing helps me take control of the stress response no matter what I am doing. It can build up my resilience if I use this when I am relaxed to prime me for the day. I also practice this technique to help me relax before sleeping. I have found that experimenting with different amounts of seconds for the Box Breathing can be beneficial. Utilising six seconds is more appropriate for me, but occasionally I may try twelve or fourteen seconds to test my breathing limits. While the original method is four seconds, you can experiment with variations to identify what helps relax you the most. When I am stressed, I have found that longer exhales and inhales help me relax the most, but the impact is not as apparent when I am relaxed.

What Are The Benefits? 

Aside from the calming effects of this exercise, it helps deal with panic and stress when feeling overwhelmed. It helps to sleep, especially if you have insomnia, and to control hyperventilation as you force your lungs to breathe rhythmically. It can help you refocus during a busy or stressful day, acting as a mental reset. It helps to ease panic and worry and to remain calm even in stressful situations. It may help lower blood pressure and decrease cortisol, related to stress reduction following the technique. Medical News Today’s article “What is box breathing?” also explains how it reduces the physical stress symptoms in the body, improves emotions and well-being, increases mental clarity, focus and energy, and builds up resilience to future stress responses.

Final Thoughts Regarding Box Breathing

Box breathing is an incredible and straightforward technique that can help calm you and deal with stress more effectively. Box breathing was the starting place for me to explore different deep breathing techniques, which enabled me to find what best supported me and helped me deal with stress. I recommend starting this exploration with box breathing and seeing how amazing it helps you feel. Once you feel the benefits, it is challenging to stop utilising deep breathing techniques to feel your best and be your best self. If it feels great, there are a variety of breathing techniques out there that may be beneficial for you if you are keen on investigating yourself.