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Calming Your Emotions Through Box Breathing

The following technique is recommended by mental toughness guru Mark Divine. A retired Navy SEAL Commander, Mark now runs SEALFIT in Encinitas, California, which is a program to develop elite level physical fitness and mental toughness. Box breathing is a breathing technique practiced by Navy Seals in their training to help them deal more capably with highly stressful events. Learning to focus on your breath helps to clear the mind, increases your capacity for concentration, and reduce stress.

Why should we do box breathing:

Deep and rhythmic breathing helps you calm your thoughts, slow your heart rate, and regulate your autonomic nervous system. When you’re working on something that requires your full and undivided attention, focused breathing helps you direct what your mind is paying attention to and focus on that thing without any distractions. When a high-pressure situation arises, it helps you control the physical and mental response to stress, preventing you from getting stressed. At a practical and physical level, proper breathing enhances lung capacity, strengthens your immune system, and regulates your neuroendocrine system. It’s a surprisingly simple and effective way to help regain calm and control of your thoughts when under stress.

When you work on your breathing techniques with meditation and breathing exercises, it will have a direct effect on:

- Performance in exercise and concentration

- Thinking with greater clarity

- Making better decisions while under duress

- Gaining control over body and mind

Here’s how you do it:

The Basics:

On the inhale, expand the belly, then the diaphragm, then the upper chest. On the exhale, let the breath go first from the upper chest, then the ribcage, then the belly. This helps you relearn how to breathe deeply.

Inhale Solely through the nose. It stimulates the nerves that activate the parasympathetic nervous system and counters the fear response of the sympathetic nervous system.


* Inhale through your nose for a count of 4.

* Retain and hold the breath for a count of 4.

* Exhale through your mouth all the breath from the lungs for a count of 4.

* Retain and hold the breath for a count of 4.

* Repeat.

You can add a mantra as well. I often add “you got this” or “another easy day”

Length: Start with 1-3 minute “spot drills” several times a day before an important meeting or event. Work up to 5-10 minutes a day.

While the environment can help to add to your relaxed state, it is not imperative. If there are other people around and you cannot find a private, quiet place, this exercise can be performed quietly with your eyes open. Repeat your mantra and counting to yourself and no one will even notice that you are performing a stress-reduction exercise.

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