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  • Writer's pictureChristopher

Incorporating Box Breathing to Reduce Stress


In our increasingly chaotic world, stress often feels like an unavoidable burden. Yet, relief may be as accessible as the air we breathe—literally. Box breathing, a specific breathing technique, has gained scientific attention for its proven benefits in reducing stress, improving cognitive function, and enhancing emotional well-being. Below, we explore what box breathing is, how to do it, and the science that supports its effectiveness.

What is Box Breathing?

Also known as four-square breathing, box breathing involves a four-step cycle: inhaling, holding the breath, exhaling, and another breath hold. Each phase lasts for a count of four, creating a "box" of breaths.

How to Practice Box Breathing

Mastering box breathing is simple:

  1. Inhale: Draw air in through your nose, counting to four as you do.

  2. Hold: Pause and hold the breath for another count of four.

  3. Exhale: Slowly release the breath through your mouth for a count of four.

  4. Hold: Stop breathing for another four counts.

Repeat this cycle for several minutes and observe the changes in your physiological and mental state.

The Science Behind Box Breathing

Stress Reduction

Slow, intentional breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the body. Research has shown that this kind of controlled breathing can lower cortisol levels, the hormone related to stress.

Improved Cognitive Function

Box breathing doubles as a form of mindfulness, a practice that has been shown to improve cognitive functions like focus and attention.

Better Lung Function

The deep inhalations and exhalations encourage a more efficient exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, which can improve lung function over time.

Emotional Regulation

Box breathing provides the brain additional time to process emotional stimuli, helping you regulate emotional responses more effectively.

Who Can Benefit?

Box breathing's versatility makes it beneficial for everyone—from professionals working under stress to athletes aiming to improve focus. Medical and military personnel often utilize box breathing techniques to maintain composure in high-stress environments.


Though box breathing is generally safe, it may cause discomfort or dizziness for some individuals. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop immediately and consult a healthcare provider for advice.


Box breathing is not a passing fad. It's a scientifically supported technique offering multiple benefits for both your mental and physical well-being. By dedicating a few minutes a day to this practice, you can empower yourself to better manage stress, improve cognitive function, and contribute to your overall wellness.

Happy Breathing!


  • Ma, X., Yue, Z. Q., Gong, Z. Q., Zhang, H., Duan, N. Y., Shi, Y. T., ... & Li, Y. F. (2017). The effect of diaphragmatic breathing on attention, negative affect and stress in healthy adults. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 874.

  • Jha, A. P., Morrison, A. B., Dainer-Best, J., Parker, S., Rostrup, N., & Stanley, E. A. (2017). Minds "at attention": mindfulness training curbs attentional lapses in military cohorts. PloS one, 12(2), e0171332.

  • Russo, M. A., Santarelli, D. M., & O’Rourke, D. (2017). The physiological effects of slow breathing in the healthy human. Breathe, 13(4), 298-309.

  • Arch, J. J., & Craske, M. G. (2006). Mechanisms of mindfulness: Emotion regulation following a focused breathing induction. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 44(12), 1849-1858.

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