Are you curious about how 4 7 8 breathing techniques work? Interested in learning how and with it, help manage anxiety, stress, and sleep better? Yes? Then you should continue reading!
An Introduction to The 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
Deep breathing exercises have been around for ages. Some have taken these exercises and put their personal twist on them. This is the case with the 4 7 8 breathing technique. It was developed by an internationally renowned doctor and integrative medicine pioneer, Dr. Andrew Weil. According to Weil, it is the most effective way of managing anxiety and quelling errant stress responses that he’s found in his decades of experience.
Deep breaths — like those used in the 4-7-8 technique — are useful for combating anxiety because they help fortify the connection between mind and body. As you slow your breathing and focus fully on the breaths, you’re taking, and your parasympathetic nervous system becomes engaged.
In turn, your body is flooded with a wave of relaxation. As your body relaxes, your mind — forced to focus on the mechanics of the breath — can take a break from its constant swirl of worries.
When it comes to managing anxiety and stress in a holistic way as 4-7-8 breathing is hard to beat. It is one of the better breathing exercises for this.
What Is The 4-7-8 Breathing Method?
478 breathing is a deep breathing exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime. Essentially, the technique follows this slow breathing pattern:
Step #1 – Breathe in to the count of 4
Step #2 – Hold your breath to the count of 7
Step #3 – Breathe out to the count of 8 (exhale completely)
Aim to perform this in four cycles, twice per day. Practice breathing on a daily basis. As you progress, the cycle can be increased to eight times in a row (instead of four).
Many people are living with anxiety when they shouldn’t have to. There are ways to help decrease anxiety and stress, and many of them are quite simple. In fact, this easy breathing technique could be what lay between you and a more calmed and relaxed daily default state.
Not only is this breathing technique one of the most powerful coping skills for anxiety, but it has also been known to help combat high blood pressure, improve digestion, improved breath control, helps regulate the body's stress response and provide additional benefits. Here are some of the main benefits you can expect from consistently using the 4 7 8 breathing technique:
- An immediate sense of calm, for when feeling stressed.
- Better sleep (easier time falling asleep and staying asleep).
- Improved focus (whether at home, at school, or relaxing with family and friends).
- Lower anxiety levels.
- Less muscle tension.
- Improved cardiovascular stamina and heart rate variability.
- Improved blood pressure.
- Improved symptoms related to common breathing conditions such as asthma, COPD, etc.
- Improved digestion.
- Improved concentration
- Help with managing anxiety.
The best part of using breathing as a relaxation response is that it could be combined with other relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga or thai chi.
How to Perform 4-7-8 Breathing
You can do 4-7-8 breathing anywhere, any time, but it’s ideal if you can find a quiet place where you can be alone. Sit in a chair with your back straight and feet flat on the floor. Or, on the ground with your back straight and legs crossed. Use a meditation cushion if you like.
If you’re using this deep breathing method to fall asleep, lie on your back, relaxed, with your face toward the ceiling and arms at your sides.
Start by exhaling all of the air out of your lungs, through your mouth.
Now, begin the cycle: With your mouth closed, quietly inhale through your nose to the count of four: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … Be sure to let your belly expand as you inhale (instead of allowing your shoulders to rise).
Gently hold the air in your lungs to the count of seven: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 …
Open your mouth slightly, and audibly with a whoosh sound (and rather forcefully) exhale slowly through the mouth to the count of eight: 1 … 2 … 3 … 4 … 5 … 6 … 7 … 8 … Feel your belly get smaller as you do this.
Repeat steps 1 through 4 four times. Practice this two times a day, every day to help with managing anxiety. It is all about breath control.
- Clint Johnson, Anahana Wellness Founder
4-7-8 Breathing: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the 4-7-8 breathing technique?
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is a quick and easy breathing exercise that promotes relaxation, calmness for stress, and an easier time managing anxiety. In fact, it’s one of the best ways to deal with anxiety and is similar to box breathing, also known as square breathing or combat breathing in this regard. It’s also a great way to use breathing to lower blood pressure (hypertension).
The technique follows a simple 478 breathing pattern:
- Take a deep breath while counting to 4.
- Hold your breath to the count of 7.
- Breathe out to the count of 8.
Can anyone do the 4-7-8 breathing method?
Yes! While those with specific medical issues should always consult with their doctors before trying a breathing exercise, the 4 7 8 breathing method was designed to work for everyone.
Just remember to start with only four iterations of the 4-7-8 cycle at a time because prolonged controlled breathing can sometimes lead to lightheadedness. Simply stick with the recommended guidelines, and you’ll begin to notice almost right away that you have an easier time managing anxiety and staying calm.
How often should you do breathing exercises?
To help with managing anxiety, the 4-7-8 breathing technique should be done twice a day to start with. This means completing four breath cycles (four iterations of the 4-7-8 breathing pattern) two times per day. After a month, you can increase to eight breath cycles, two times per day.
How long will it take to notice effects from 4 7 8 breathing?
If you practice 4-7-8 breathing twice a day, every day, you should start to notice positive effects almost immediately: Slowed heart rate, a less tense posture, an easier time managing anxiety, and a clearer mind, to name a few. Stick with it, and after about six weeks, you’ll begin to notice even more significant positive effects, like better sleep and lowered blood pressure.
Why does 4-7-8 breathing work?
While using the 4-7-8 method, your breathing exercise is divided into three phases. By doing this, you are taking a relaxing breath, forcing the mind and body to regulate your breath. Dr. Weil recommends this and describes it as a natural tranquilizer for your nervous system.
All you need to do is keep a mental count on the three phases and breathwork. Count during your inhale, count during your hold, and count during your exhale. It is recommended that you perform this while sitting upright during the entire exercise.
From the perspective of meditation, every state is a special state, every moment a special moment.
- Jon Kabat-Zinn
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