A lot of the time when I’m feeling anxious, I’ll turn to my Mom for support. She’s my main foundation, my main safety net, so I can usually count on her to try and calm me down, or to simply be there to look after me in case something bad does happen. Though, when I’m particularly suffering with my mental health, she always reminds me to practice ‘square breathing’. It sounds weird, but it actually does sort of work.
What Is ‘Square Breathing’?
Square breathing, which is also known as box breathing, is simply a breathing technique that focuses around taking a set of deep inhalations. While it can be used to increase performance and boost your concentration, it’s also an excellent way of relieving stress and grounding yourself at the same time.
The great thing about square breathing is that it can be done by anybody, anywhere. It’s especially good if you want to start meditating or you simply struggle with getting your anxiety under control, like I do.
The best time to practice square breathing is whenever you’re feeling particularly anxious or stressed. I, for one, tend to get very anxious in the supermarket, so I tend to find myself finding a square shape to focus on and help keep me concentrated as I try to calm myself down.
As well as getting your anxiety under control, square breathing actually has a whole range of other benefits to it as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, intentional deep breathing, which box breathing is, can actually work to regulate the ANS – the autonomic nervous system. This explains why it’s such a good stress reliever, as the ANS regulates your blood pressure. Practicing square breathing, in turn, can lower your blood pressure and allow you to feel a lot more calm.
It can also even work to treat insomnia, considering that it allows one to settle down their nervous system just before heading to bed. Calming your nervous system is, in turn, obviously going to make you feel less overwhelmed, less stressed, and generally feel lighter all around.
How To Square-Breathe
Despite there being no wrong way to partake in square breathing, there are a set of recommendations that you should try to follow. If you’re just starting out and need to get your footing with the practice, it’s a good idea to get a general feel for it before trying it when you’re out and about. Likewise, it may be difficult to beginners to get to grips with square breathing and it can indeed make you feel dizzy at first, so ensure that you’re in a safe, stable environment.
Sit upright in a comfortable chair with your feet placed flat on the floor. Your hands can be relaxed in lap, folded over each other or not. The most important factor is that you’re comfortable, at ease, and safe.
With your mouth closed, breathe in slowly through your nose and count to four as you do so. Hold that breath in for another four seconds. This slight pause will allow the air to fill your lungs and give you the chance to take note of how your body feels in that moment.
With your mouth slightly open, exhale slowly to the count of four and then hold the exhale for an additional count of four. Ideally, you should try to square breathe for about four minutes, but simply repeating the exercise a few times alone will help you feel a lot better within yourself.
As you continue to repeat the exercises, take note of how the air fills your chest and notice how your breathing becomes more regular. The main point of square breathing is to bring the respiratory system back into alignment after experiencing shallow breathing as a result of the classic ‘fight or flight’ response that your body automatically goes into when you’re feeling stressed.
Square breathing is by no means a magic cure for anxiety, but it is a strategy that can help you cope certain symptoms of it. Whether you do it for meditation or simply to calm yourself down, square breathing has a whole range of benefits that make it the perfect go-to breathing technique.
Do you practice square breathing or any other techniques? What works for you?