Box Breathing: A Calming Technique
The Research Behind Box Breathing
Picture this: you’ve just encountered a stress-inducing event, such as a disapproving email or a tense phone conversation. Almost immediately, you begin to worry, your heart rate quickens, and your breaths become more rapid.
A study published on in Cell Reports Medicine by Yilmaz Balban et al. revealed that participants in controlled breathing groups – box breathing, mindful meditation, and cyclic sighing – experienced notable improvements in problem-solving, peacefulness, and positive thoughts.
On average, those in the controlled breathing groups reported a daily uplift in positive affect of 1.91 points on the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule scale, compared to 1.22 points for the mindfulness meditation group – an increase of roughly one-third.
Box breathing consists of a series of four breaths, ideally inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Inhale deeply for 3-10 seconds, then exhale for the same duration. Be sure not to hold your breath when your lungs are empty!
To determine the optimal inhale and exhale duration, take a deep breath, filling your lungs to capacity, and then time how long it takes to empty your lungs as slowly as possible.
If it takes 0-20 seconds, your inhales, exhales, and breath holds should last 3-4 seconds.
If it takes 25-45 seconds, your inhales, exhales, and breath holds should last 5-6 seconds.
If it takes 50-75 seconds, your inhales, exhales, and breath holds should last 8-10 seconds.
The next time you face a stressful situation, remember to take control and simply breathe.
By: Helena Zhang, BS & Bruce Feldstein, MD