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Discovering the Calming Powers of Box Breathing

Yiwen Lu, MS, RD
June 11, 2024
June 11, 2024

In the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, stress has become an unwelcome companion for many. But, what if I told you there's a simple technique, a breath of fresh air quite literally, that can alter your mood and bring a sense of calm? This technique is called box breathing – a practice so straightforward, yet so powerful that even the formidable US Navy SEALs turn to it in the heat of high-stress situations. In this article, let's explore the basics of Box Breathing, understanding how this practice can bring a sense of calm to your everyday routine.

What is Box Breathing?

Box breathing is a breathing technique that involves a structured pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding, each for the same duration. The result? A rhythmic and calming effect that can be your go-to remedy when stress comes knocking. The “magic” of this technique lies in the equal duration of each step, forming a square, hence the name "box" breathing. This structured rhythm triggers a calming response in your nervous system and helps shift your body from fight-or-flight mode to a more relaxed state

How Does It Work?

Before you begin, find yourself in a comfortable seated position, close your eyes. Here’s how the cycle goes:

  1. Inhale (4 seconds): Take a slow and steady breath in through your nose and count to four. Allow your stomach to expand like a balloon being filled up.
  2. Hold (4 seconds): Hold that soothing breath for another count of four. Let the calmness linger a while.
  3. Exhale (4 seconds): Release the breath slowly and completely through your mouth for four seconds.Visualize that balloon gently deflating and carrying away any tension, stress, and negativity.
  4. Hold (4 seconds): Float in that moment of serenity for another count of four before starting the cycle again.

With each cycle, notice a gradual increase in your calmness, typically within about four minutes or until the tranquility returns. If counting to four feels challenging at first, try three. As you get used to it, you'll probably be able to increase each breath to five or even six seconds if you think that gives you an even greater calming effect.


With just four simple steps, box breathing can become your ally in regaining mindfulness. The next time stress comes knocking at your door, pause for a moment, find a comfortable space, and let box breathing guide you to navigate away from anxiety. If you enjoy this read, explore our other mental health articles – you might find The Healing Power of Hobbies interesting.

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