Box breathing technique


Since reading Breath by James Nestor, I have been interested in the use of breathing techniques to help create calmer more focused states.

I teach a few of them in Studyology and have modified my own breathing habits to emphasise nasal diaphragmatic breathing.

I now consider breathing to be one of the four core pillars of health: sleep, nutrition, physical activity and breathing

Just the other day I came across ‘box breathing’. It is a simple technique you can learn in a couple of minutes.

The basics are this:

Breathe in for a count of 4

Hold for a count of 4

Breathe out for a count of 4

Hold for a count of 4



The ABC have produced a simple animation from which you can learn the technique.

When it comes to training breathing techniques, there are a few things you can do to increase the likelihood that these techniques will actually help you during times of stress.

  1. Set aside training time each day to practice the technique. This only needs to be 5-10 minutes at a time, but done regularly.
  2. Practice the technique in the lead-up to a known stressful period (e.g. exams). In fact, with exams coming up, this is the perfect time to start experimenting with some techniques that can help create a state of focused relaxation.
  3. Notice the mental state that the technique helps you create. It might be relaxed or focused or calm or alert. This is important as this lets you know when the technique might be most helpful to you. For example a breathing technique that gets you in a focused state might be helpful for study sessions, whereas a breathing technique that makes you sleepy might be best used when you go to bed.
  4. Practice the technique for a decent period of time (e.g. 2 weeks) before making a judgement on its value. If you find the technique does not create a desired state, after a reasonable amount of practice, then you can abandon in and set off in search of an alternative.

For other breathing techniques, visit

For a simple app that guides you through a simple 4-7-8 technique try

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