All You Need to Know About Box Breathing


Aimed at normalizing breathing rhythm or pattern, box breathing is quite a simple, but powerful breathing technique. Among its many advantages, it helps us unwind our body, clears our mind and boosts attention.

Also popular by the names – ‘four-square breathing’ and ‘resetting your breath’ – this technique can be learnt quickly. It is easy to perform and work wonders for persons under stress.

Those engaged in stress-inducing professions, including police officials and soldiers, frequently make use of this breathing technique to manage fight-or-flight response of their body. The technique can also be beneficial to those, who want to boosts their concentration or re-center themselves.

Let’s see how to perform this highly useful breathing technique.


Steps to Perform Box Breathing

This easy technique can be performed anywhere – at your work desk or even in a cafeteria. Prior to performing box breathing, make sure that your back is well supported by the backrest of the chair and your feet must be touching the floor. The 4 steps of box breathing are described below:

1. Start by closing your eyes and take the breath in via through nose while slowly counting to 4. Try feeling the air getting into your lungs.

2. Now, hold the breath while again counting to 4. In this position, don’t close your mouth and nose, but just don’t exhale or inhale, either from the mouth or nose for at least 4 seconds.

3. Next, start exhaling the air slowly by counting to 4.

4. Now, repeat the above three steps for at least 3 times. It is recommended to perform the three steps repeatedly for 4 minutes, or Until you feel relaxed.

Health-Specific Importance of Breath

Restoring your normal breathing pattern or utilizing it to get out of flight-or-fight mode is equally advantageous to physical and mental health. All involuntary processes, controlled by autonomic nervous system (ANS), like the digestion of food or beating of our heart, continue to occur, without considering our will, can be in a rest-or-digest or fight-or-flight situation, respectively. When the body goes into the fight-or-flight mode, it experiences threat and accordingly reacts to allow the person to avoid or come out of that stressful situation.

Various changes take place inside our body at the physiological level when it is into the flight-or-flight mode, including release of hormones that lead to faster beating of heart, elevated blood sugar levels and quick breathing.

Exposing the body to stressful situations too frequently or for a longer duration can be deleterious to our health. This may result in damage to our various bodily systems. Long-standing stress may enhance risk of several conditions, including headaches, high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke.

Here, breathing techniques like box breathing come into play as regulating breath while being conscious through such techniques help the body to come out of the state of stress and attaining the state of placidness.

Benefits of Box Breathing

An array of health benefits can be harvested by those, who regularly practice this breathing technique. The four scientifically backed benefits of box breathing are discussed below:

Reduction in the Symptoms of Physical Stress in the Body:

Deep breathing exercises have indicated to remarkably lower the production of stress-including hormones like cortisol. A research showed that enhanced attention and reduced levels of cortisol in participants, who performed breathing exercise. [1]


Positive Effects on Mental Wellbeing and Emotions:

Several studies claim that breathing techniques can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression.[2]

Enhanced Energy Levels, Mental Clarity and Focus:

A study depicted that breathing techniques can boost attention and mood, and bring about positive changes in one’s thinking. The subjects were found to regulate impulses related to smoking and similar addictions more efficiently.[3]

Improvement in Future Responses to Stress:

This claimed benefit has also been backed by several studies. Many experts believe that relaxation response-based techniques, including yoga, meditation and deep breathing, can change the body’s reaction to stress by altering the way how specific genes are turned on.

Genes have innumerable functions to perform inside the body. A study indicated that such practices enhanced the activation of several genes linked with insulin secretion and energy while lowering the activation of some genes responsible for stress and inflammation. [4]

While the study showed that the positive effects were experienced by both long-term and short-term practitioners, the effects were found to be more pronounced in those, who had been practicing these techniques for quite a long.

Suggestions for Box Breathing

To make this technique easier, following steps can be taken:

  • Search for a quiet and serene space. Although box breathing can be practiced anywhere, it is always good to avoid distractions as much as possible.
  • Putting one hand on the lower abdomen while the other over the chest can make this technique more effective. In fact, this is applicable to nearly every deep breathing technique.
  • Try to concentrate on experiencing an expansion in the abdomen area without forcefully trying to put out the muscles.
  • Instead of indulging muscles, always make efforts to relax them.

Other Popular Deep Breathing Techniques to Choose From

Most breathing techniques are either classified as deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing. Fortunately, box breathing is the one, which is the easiest of all and anyone can master it with minimal efforts. Hence, it is a great way to begin with breathing exercises.

To soothe the nerves, enhance attention and attain peace of mind, you can practice other breathing techniques as well that are as follows:

  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Shaolin Dan Tian breathing
  • Pranayama breathing
  • Meditation breathing

There are always several apps that can help you learn how to perform a bevy of relaxation response practices, including meditation and box breathing.

The Bottomline

Unarguably, box breathing is a great way to enhance your attention and concentration and remain stress free in our daily lives.

Like many breathing techniques, box breathing have been shown to bring short- as well as long-term benefits to its practitioners.

While more research is required, the current findings are enough to regard box breathing as an extremely effective way to boost focus, deal with stress, and boost mood and mental state.