Simple, quick, free and effective – that’s why the 4-7-8 Breathing Exercise is on my list of top five favorite self-care strategies! Quick primer on stress: when you feel “stressed”, your body, on a biochemical level, is responding as if there is a saber tooth tiger in the room. Which is fine, if indeed there is (or the modern-day equivalent). But, most of the time, the “threat” is in your head, in the form of “what if’s”, deadlines, worries about things that might happen, etc. At these times, your stress response is not helpful. What you need is to feel calm and grounded, which will allow you to think and act more clearly.
This is where 4-7-8 comes in.
- You can do this anywhere, but best to first practice it in a seated position.
- Sit comfortably with your spine straight, and eyes closed.
- Keep your tongue resting lightly on the roof of your mouth throughout the process.
- Get started by exhaling fully through your mouth with a “whooshing” sound. Pursing your lips slightly makes breathing out around your tongue easier.
- Inhale quietly through your nose for a mental count of 4.
- Hold your breath for a count of 7.
- Exhale completely through your mouth with the whoosh for a count of 8.
- Repeat the 4-7-8 cycle three more times.
- That’s it – deceptively simple, given how very effective it is.
Practice this twice a day until it feels easy and natural. Then, use it any time you feel anxious, overwhelmed, worried, are having trouble falling asleep or find yourself in a tense conversation (yes, it can be done “stealthily” in public). The more you do it, the more effective it becomes. Really.
Try it – your body will thank you!
In Good Health,
PS I learned of this technique years ago in one of Dr. Andrew Weil’s books. Dozens and dozens of my patients use this technique to help manage anxiety, high blood pressure, stress of daily living and more. Don’t underestimate the power of mindful breathing.