Daily breathing practices to support your mental health

1) Breathing Exercise 4-7-8

The 4-7-8 breathing technique can be used to relax when you’re feeling stressed or anxious.

The exercise helps regulate the hormone cortisol, which controls your fight or flight response. This is important because too much cortisol being released in your body too often can have negative long-term health effects.

How do you practice 4-7-8?

  1. Find somewhere comfortable to sit. If you can, close your eyes.
  2. Breathe in through your nose to the count of four.
  3. Hold the breath to the count of seven.
  4. Exhale through your mouth to the count of eight.

2) Box Breathing

How to do box breathing

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to master the box breathing method right away. 

  1. Breathe out slowly, releasing all the air from your lungs.
  2. Breathe in through your nose as you slowly count to four in your head. Be conscious of how the air fills your lungs and stomach.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of four.
  4. Exhale for another count of four.
  5. Hold your breath again for a count of four.
  6. Repeat for three to four rounds.

3) Diaphragmatic Breathing

  1. Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your head on a pillow.
  2. You may place a pillow under your knees for support.
  3. Place one hand on your upper chest and one hand below your rib cage, allowing you to feel the movement of your diaphragm.
  4. Slowly inhale through your nose, feeling your stomach pressing into your hand.
  5. Keep your other hand as still as possible.
  6. Exhale using pursed lips as you tighten your abdominal muscles, keeping your upper hand completely still.

4) Mindfulness Breathing

As part of “mindfulness meditation,” mindfulness breathing can be a helpful practice for managing anxiety and anxious thoughts. This involves focusing on your breathing and bringing your attention to the present without allowing your mind to drift to the past or future. Engaging in mindfulness breathing exercises serves the same purpose, which can help ease your anxiety.

Another technique to try, when engaged with mindfulness breathing, involves choosing a calming focus (as opposed to object-less attention). Sounds can be effective for a calming object of focus. Try a sound (“om”), positive word (“peace”), or phrase (“breathe in calm, breathe out tension”) that you will repeat silently as you inhale or exhale. Let go and relax. If you notice that your mind has drifted, take a deep breath and gently return your attention to the present. Your mind will very likely drift. That’s okay, that’s what it does. Keep returning, kindly and gently, to the calming object of focus. 

Leave a Comment