Slow it down
Box Breathing

The benefits of Box Breathing

November 27, 2020

The benefits of Box Breathing

November 27, 2020

Box breathing or square breathing is a breath technique primarily used to reduce stress. This slow, structured form of breathing helps to reset the body in high stress situations and is often utilized by those in high-stress jobs to remain calm and focused. This technique can also be adapted to everyday situations that trigger high levels of stress or panic. For example, preparing for athletic competition, public speaking, facing a fear or confronting a tricky situation.

Box breathing essentially helps to calm the response of our sympathetic nervous system which triggers the fight-or-flight mode in dangerous and stressful situations while dialing up the input from our parasympathetic nervous system. Studies suggest that box breathing offers both immediate and long-term benefits in reducing stress, improving focus and boosting mood, clarity and overall, positively affecting mental health – the most benefits seen by those practicing it long-term.


Box breathing basics:

  1. Start by sitting upright and placing both feet flat on the floor, fully emptying the lungs with a slow exhale through the mouth.
  2. Breath in through the nose for a slow count of four – counting in your head. Pay attention to the feeling of air moving through the nose and filling the lungs
  3. Hold the full breath for the same slow count of four
  4. Breathe out fully again through the mouth for a slow count of four, being mindful of the feeling of the air leaving your bod
  5. Hold on empty for a slow count of four

Repeat for 4 rounds.

Prefer to get started with a guided breath?

There are also many apps on smart phones and watches now that guide you through box breathing which can be especially helpful for beginners.

What are the benefits of box breathing?


Reduces physical signs of stress
Studies have found a reduction in physical stress not only immediately after using the box breathing technique but also long term. The instant calming of the fight-or-flight response helps to regulate involuntary systems like blood pressure and temperature, having a relaxing effect on the body. A regular breath practice may even help to reduce reactivity and susceptibility to stress in the future through changing gene expression. Studies suggest that relaxation response practices, like box breathing, tend to boost energy and reduce the activation of the genes that lead to inflammation and stress.

Boosts your mental state, improving mood and emotional health
Box breathing has been found to positively effect mood and emotional well-being. Some studies claim that this technique can be helpful in the treatment of depression, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), stress and anxiety.

Boosts sleep quality
Improved sleep quality comes hand-in-hand with stress reduction. Box breathing taps into the parasympathetic nervous system or the “rest and digest” system that promotes sleep and recovery. Calming the nervous system at night with the breath can also be helpful in treating insomnia.

Improves focus, clarity and concentration
Becoming mindful of the sensation of air moving in and out of the body can help bring awareness to the present moment. This can help to reduce repetitive or whirling thought-patterns and help to focus your mind.

If you’re new to box breathing keep in mind that it isn’t always easy in the beginning. Holding the breath can feel uncomfortable and distractions may disrupt your focus. Try to find a dimly lit, quiet space to make it easier for you to focus and be patient with yourself if and when your attention does drift.


Box breathing is a simple, no-cost tool found to reduce stress, boost mental health, and promote clarity and focus, resetting the nervous system through breath control. The beauty of this reset is that you can do it anytime, anywhere and without any equipment. So, when you’re faced with high stress situations, whether it’s overcoming fear, performing in front of people or tackling a high-stakes conversation, try this breathing technique to pull you through.

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