Do you often find yourself feeling stressed, anxious, and unable to fall asleep? The 4-7-8 breathing exercise, developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, is a fast and easy technique for relaxation and stress management.
It soothes both your body and your mind, using a pattern of rhythmic breathing to focus your thoughts, calm your nervous system, slow your heart rate, and lower your blood pressure. We detail 4-7-8 breathing benefits in this article.
What Is 4-7-8 Breathing?
4-7-8 breathing is a breathing technique adapted from pranayama yoga, which can help you relax, de-stress, reduce anxiety, and even fall asleep faster! By focusing on breathing in a specific pattern, you can make yourself enter a state of deep relaxation, allowing both your mind and body to settle down.
Many people who practice 4-7-8 breathing every day report that the technique helps soothe the pressures of everyday life, allowing them to relax and unwind without having to resort to anti-anxiety or insomnia medications.
4-7-8 Breathing Benefits
1. Reduce Anxiety
By focusing on following a pattern of rhythmic breathing, you can distract your mind from spiraling into anxious thoughts. Your nervous system calms down, alleviating symptoms of anxiety and helping to reduce, or even prevent panic attacks.
If you start to feel anxious before an important event, like a school presentation, important work meeting, or even a first date, 4-7-8 breathing benefits can calm you down and help you feel ready to tackle the task in front of you.
2. Soothe Stress
When you feel stressed, your body enters fight-or-flight mode. 4-7-8 breathing activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your body’s natural stress reactions to “back off.” As you continue to practice breathing, you might notice your body becoming less tense, your heart rate slowing down, and your mind quieting.
3. Fall Asleep Faster
4-7-8 breathing works a lot like guided meditation—it lulls your body into a deep state of relaxation and focuses your thoughts, preventing your mind from wandering. If you often find yourself lying awake at night, unable to sleep because you’re thinking about all the things that happened in your day, or all the things you have to do tomorrow, 4-7-8 breathing can help!
Related Article: Benefits of Sleeping With Crystals Under Your Pillow
4. Manage Cravings
Many people use the 4-7-8 breathing technique as a tool to help them curb cravings, whether it be binge eating, smoking, drinking, caffeine, or any other substance or habit that they’re trying to kick.
By calming the nervous system, reducing heart rate and blood pressure, and focusing the mind on something other than the feeling of craving, 4-7-8 breathing can help distract you and refocus your energies!
5. Control Anger Responses
4-7-8 breathing can also be a useful tool to help you calm down if you’re hot-tempered or quick to anger. Instead of immediately reacting to a situation that makes you angry, doing a few rounds of 4-7-8 breathing gives you some time to cool off and remove yourself from the situation, so you can come back and respond calmly and rationally. 4-7-8 breathing also helps slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure, calming the physical sensations of anger in addition to the emotional ones!
6. Improve Cognition
Although scientists have not studied the 4-7-8 breathing technique in depth yet, there are studies that suggest that deep breathing techniques, like 4-7-8 breathing, can improve cognition and motor function. Basically, this means that deep breathing techniques help make your brain sharper, better at problem-solving, and better at controlling your body!
How To Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is super easy to learn, and the major steps are right there in the name! The 4, 7, and 8 refer to the number of beats that you inhale, hold your breath, and exhale. This technique may feel weird at first, but the more you practice, the easier it will become, and the more relaxed it’ll make you feel!
1. Find A Quiet Place
4-7-8 breathing is kind of like meditation or yoga—you’re going to want to practice in a quiet area where you’re sure you won’t be distracted or disturbed. Dr. Andrew Weil, the inventor of 4-7-8 breathing, recommends that you sit up straight to start. However, if you’re doing 4-7-8 breathing to fall asleep, you can also start lying down!
2. Position Your Mouth
Next, you’re going to place the tip of your tongue so that it’s gently pressing against the ridge of tissue right behind your front teeth. The tip of your tongue can lightly touch the back of your front teeth. While you follow the rest of the steps, make sure to keep your tongue in this position.
3. Empty Your Lungs
Now, you’re going to open your mouth, still keeping your tongue in position, and exhale all of the air out of your lungs, through your mouth. If it helps, you can make a little “whoosh” sound as you exhale.
4. Breathe In For 4
Close your mouth and breathe in through your nose for a count of 4. It doesn’t necessarily have to be four seconds, just count to four in your head. Make sure you expand your diaphragm so that you can take a nice, deep breath.
5. Hold It For 7
After you’ve inhaled for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7. Some people feel a little bit lightheaded during this part when they first start out. That’s OK, the feeling will pass as you practice the technique more and more.
6. Breathe Out For 8
After you’ve finished counting to 7, open your mouth again, making sure to keep your tongue in place. Slowly exhale through your mouth for a count of 8.
Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 three more times, bringing you to a total of four breath cycles. This is a good amount for a beginner. As you grow more experienced with the 4-7-8 breathing technique, you can repeat as many as eight cycles in a row!
How Often Should You Do the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique?
To start, it’s good to practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique at least twice a day, every day. However, you can do it as many times as you want!
Maybe you’re feeling stressed or anxious, need to settle down and focus before an important event, want to unwind after a long day, or are having trouble falling asleep—these are all great opportunities to practice four to eight rounds of 4-7-8 breathing!
Our Final Thoughts on 4-7-8 Breathing Benefits
It’s no secret that daily life has become exponentially more stressful and anxiety-inducing, especially over the last couple of years. If you’re struggling with anxiety, stress, or insomnia, the 4-7-8 breathing technique is an excellent tool that you can use anytime, anywhere.
By practicing this rhythmic breathing technique, you can enjoy the benefits and train your body to remain calm, serene, and relaxed, even when the world around you gets chaotic.