Breathing slowly and deeply can help us achieve a state of calm and focus our attention. Calming breathing exercises have become all the rage, but why are they effective?
The 4-7-8 breathing technique we show here is a calming breathing pattern developed by Dr. Andrew Weil in which we: breathe in for 4 counts, hold our breath for 7, and exhale for 8. He called it a “natural tranquilizer for the nervous system.” Because the 4-7-8 technique involves holding the breath it also allows our body to replenish its oxygen, which supplies our organs and tissues a much-needed oxygen boost.
The trick is to avoid shallow breathing and breathe fully and deeply with a ‘belly breath,’ completely inhaling and exhaling the air from our lungs. When we do, we activate our rest and recovery system while calming the racing heart and frazzled nerves caused by our fight/flight system. This reduces distress in the moment, prepares us to handle a stressful challenge, and can help us sleep more soundly.