Breathing techniques are a powerful way to reduce anxiety and stress. Focusing on your inhale and exhale has been proven to keep you focused on the present. The main benefits of breathing exercises stem from relaxing your involuntary nervous system. This has a cascading positive impact on the rest of your body, from slowing down your heart rate to lowering your blood pressure and improving digestion. The best part is that practicing these three breathing techniques doesn’t take a long time out of your day, but they can all enhance your mental state and reduce anxiety. Just two minutes per day practicing any mindful breathing can be enough to feel a difference, but it is recommended to start with 5-10 minutes per day of any or all of the techniques. Unlike medication which can lose effectiveness the more you take them, breathing techniques are more beneficial the more frequently you practice them.
Breathing Technique 1: 4-7-8
4-7-8 breathing, also known as the relaxing breathing technique, is one of the most popular breathing patterns. Start by inhaling slowly for a count of 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 7 seconds, and then release for 8 seconds. It is important to note that the actual number of seconds doesn’t have to be exact. The ratio is more important than the timing, so make sure your exhale is twice as long as the inhale. Focus on your breathing and clear your mind as you practice this technique.
Breathing Technique 2: 4-4-8
If the 7- second hold seems too long, University Health Services at Berkeley recommends a shorter deep breathing hold while still maintaining the same ratio of inhale to exhale. They state that this technique “is great to use when you feel stressed or tense because it can help to calm the nervous system, clear the head of distractions and reduce stress.” Similar to the previous technique’s naming convention, begin by inhaling for 4 seconds, hold for that same amount, and then exhale for 8 seconds. Continue to repeat this for at least a few minutes.
Breathing Technique 3: 4-4-4
The 4-4-4 breathing technique, also known as box breathing, is one of the most widely practiced breathing exercises to reduce anxiety. The goal is to create harmony in breath by pacing your inhale, hold, and exhale together. If 4 seconds for each step feels like too long to begin with, you can try 3-3-3. Another method of practicing equal breathing instead of counting is to choose a word or short phrase to repeat during each inhale and exhale. An example of this is slowly repeating in your mind “I am at peace.”
These are just three of the main breathing methods that can reduce anxiety levels immediately. They can even change your future reaction to stress and anxiety once you have practiced them repeatedly and make them part of your daily routine. If practicing the patterns by yourself is hard, a free guided meditation app known as Moksha App with the help of the Beam anxiety device will help you stay grounded and calm your mind.