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Square Breathing

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Busy schedules, multitasking and persistent stresses of life can lead to racing thoughts or difficulty concentrating. Square Breathing (also called box breathing, four-square breathing, or "resetting your brain") is a great way to refocus your mind to the moment and task at hand.

Here is the practice:

  1. Close your eyes and Inhale through your nose while counting to 4 slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.

  2. Hold your breath inside while counting slowly to four. Try not to clamp your mouth or nose shut. Simply avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.

  3. Begin to slowly exhale for 4 seconds.

  4. Hold one last time while counting slowly to 4.

  5. Repeat steps 1 to 4 at least three times. Ideally, repeat the three steps for 4 minutes, or until a sense of calm returns.

Below is a visual aid to follow as you learn the process:

The visual aspect of square breathing is important, as it can provide you with a point of concentration. As you are counting to 4 trace the line with your eyes, and once you reach a corner and change direction change the breath from inhale to hold to exhale to hold.

You will not always have the visual aid available to you, but you can use anything square-shaped around you – a post-it note, a picture frame, a clock, pair of dice, etc...

Importance of Square Breathing

As we explored in a previous post (Fight Stress Right.) our stress response cannot simply be thought away. When we consciously control our breath, we can pull ourselves out of the fight-flight-freeze response and get back into the rest-and-digest state. From this state we can more effectively handle the situations we are in.

Living in a constant state of stress has adverse consequences on health. It is not only for our mind, but the physical impact of this state can cause excessive strain on every system in the body.

Long-term chronic stress that keeps you stuck in the fight-flight-freeze response can increase the risk of conditions such as:

  • High blood pressure

  • Headaches

  • Memory impairments

  • Heart attacks

  • Strokes

  • Inability to sleep

  • Infertility

  • Lower immunity against diseases

The ability to consciously regulate breath allows the body to leave a state of stress and enter into a state of calm.

Physical symptoms are commonly a result of chronic stress. If you have been trying to manage any of the above conditions, or are having it difficult managing the stress in your life I encourage you to book a session or contact me for free consultation so we can talk about how counselling may be able to help.

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