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Using the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique – A Quick Guide to Relaxation

If you find you can’t relax, have problems with anxiety, or struggle to fall asleep easily at night, breathing exercises can be an excellent way to get things under control. One of the most common techniques is 4-7-8 breathing.

Like many breathing methods, its origins are in yoga, specifically, the pranayama technique, and with regular practice, 4-7-8 breathing can help improve sleep, reduce stress, and improve mood.

a woman with her eyes closed looking up to the sky in the sunshune

How Do Breathing Techniques Work? 

All breathing techniques work on the same principle – to get as much oxygen into your body as possible to stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system. This system transports more oxygen to your tissues and organs and helps reduce your fight or flight response triggered during times of stress.

a woman sitting with her eyes closed outside meditating

So, if you find that you lie in bed at night with your brain swirling thinking about the day’s worries, breathing techniques are a great way to slow down your thoughts and focus on the air going into your body.

What is the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?

The 4-7-8 breathing technique, also known as “relaxing breath,” is a breathing exercise designed to promote relaxation, reduce stress, and induce a state of calm. It is believed to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps counteract the effects of stress and anxiety.

How to Practice 4-7-8 Breathing 

Practicing 4-7-8 breathing is incredibly simple. Firstly, find yourself in a comfortable space. You may choose to sit down on a favorite chair or lie down in bed if you’re trying to get to sleep. It is then a case of simply repeating the following cycle:

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whooshing sound, to a count of eight.
  5. This completes one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times.
a woman sitting on a pillow breathing and meditating

4 Main Benefits of the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique

  1. Relaxation: The extended exhalation helps slow down the heart rate and activates the body’s relaxation response, promoting a sense of calmness.
  2. Stress reduction: By focusing on the breath and counting, the mind is distracted from stressful thoughts and worries, helping to reduce anxiety.
  3. Improved sleep: Practicing this technique before bed can help relax the body and mind, facilitating better sleep.
  4. Increased mindfulness: The technique encourages present-moment awareness as you focus on the breath, promoting mindfulness and grounding you in the present.

Breathing in and holding your breath allows more oxygen to diffuse through your lungs into your bloodstream. Then, by exhaling for much longer than you breathe in, you are completely emptying the lungs of any carbon dioxide-filled air. After just a few cycles, the amount of oxygen in your lungs increases, allowing more to flow around your body.

What To Look Out For 

When you first try any breathing technique, you may find yourself slightly lightheaded due to the rush of oxygen to your brain. At first, you should probably only try four or five cycles to avoid any dizziness. However, the more you practice, the longer you will be able to continue, and the more benefits will get. It’s just a case of being sensible, and if you start to feel faint or dizzy, stop.

If you struggle with stress or insomnia, the whirling thoughts are doing you no good whatsoever. Breathing techniques are a simple, cost-free, and risk-free method to ease your mind and help you relax. Combined with other relaxation techniques such as mindfulness and yoga, 4-7-8 breathing can massively affect your well-being.

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