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Box breathing illustration: a person demonstrates breathing in, holding breath, breathing out, holding breath, counting 4 each side around the sides of a box. Also called square breathing: breathe in, hold, breathe out, hold

Box breathing

Box breathing can help us focus on the present, reduce stress and anxiety by lowering cortisol levels, and generally relax and be calm.

Box breathing involves four steps repeated in sequence, each for an equal count:

  1. Breathe in
  2. Hold your breath
  3. Breathe out
  4. Hold your breath

It's called box breathing or square breathing, as the four equal steps are like the sides of a virtual box. Counting to four is typical, though it can be more or less.

Because of box breathing's simplicity and effectiveness, it's also used by the Navy SEALs—for example, ex-Navy SEAL Mark Divine can lead you through box breathing on video.

I find meditation surprisingly difficult and the steps and simple counting of box breathing help me stay focused and free of distraction as well as any other technique. Even a few cycles of box breathing before a difficult conversation, a public talk, or after a challenging spell with our children helps me stay cool and be better.

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