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When You Need a Reset, Try This
The How and Why of Box Breathing
If you have ever found yourself frustrated with a problematic work computer and called IT for help, chances are they asked you this: “When was the last time you restarted it?” A regular reboot of your digital devices speeds up processing, corrects connections between files and programs, slows memory leaks, and in general, offers your device a clean slate to start fresh. Is this something you find you and your mind could benefit from as well?
Human restarts can be accomplished with a myriad of breathing techniques. Today, we will examine one. But before we do, why does breath work offer restart potential similar to that of a computer reboot?
Why Breathwork Works
Throughout the day our mind is occupied with a myriad of concerns. We are constantly monitoring our internal and external worlds to make sure that things are going according to plan. As part of this process, we are vigilant for warning signs of when things might start to go off the rails. This can result in stress. Due to our mind-body connection, this stress may result in shorter, more frequent breaths. This quicker breathing stimulates activity in the amygdala, which is responsible for our “fight or flight response”. We then often experience feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger. This mind-body communication can thus lead us into a cycle of stress and negative emotion.
However, we can break this cycle with our breath. Intentionally slowing and deepening our breathing can short circuit this tension-creating process, resulting in us feeling more relaxed and at ease. In fact, engaging in regular deep breathing activities has the following benefits of
Reducing symptoms of physical stress
Promoting mental well-being and positive emotion
Increasing mental clarity and focus
Improving future reaction to stress
One effective way of slowing our breath and rebooting our internal network is box breathing, also known as 4 x 4 breathing, or four-square breathing. Box breathing was made popular by Navy Seals and is practiced both as a preventative measure as well as during high-stress situations.
To do box breathing, four steps are required:
Inhale for four counts.
Hold for four counts.
Exhale for four counts.
Hold for four counts.
Four counts are a general recommendation. However, you may wish to experiment to see if three or six counts, for example, feels more natural to you.
This process is repeated as long as desired. For greatest effect, periods of five minutes or longer are recommended. However, this practice can result in a dramatic difference after just a minute or two. This makes box breathing a great use of time in between activities as an ounce of prevention, or when we find ourselves frustrated by our uncooperative digital devices…
MM Continues to Evolve…
To better serve you, MM continues to evolve. As part of this evolution, I’ve given the masthead a refresh, so that it integrates more seamlessly with Worldview Coaching. Furthermore, as the masthead indicates, MM is transitioning to becoming a full-fledged e-zine, featuring articles written by me, as well as other leaders in the field of well-being. This e-zine will be delivered to you, as previously, once a week on Friday. It will look something like this:
As you can see, my articles will be featured at the top of the list just below the masthead, with other articles of interest below it. If you are content reading only my writing, please do so! Otherwise, you have a choice. When you click on the article, it will open a separate tab and take you straightaway to that source.
The e-zine allows for a greater breadth of coverage with more consistency than the current iteration of Mэntal Musings. If there are topics you would like to see included, or articles that resonate with you, I would love to hear from you!
You are welcome to check out Mэntal Musings, Your E-zine for Well-being now online. You can expect to receive the new newsletter starting September 24th. More info regarding this will be published in next week’s edition of MM.