When you think of self-care, you may think of nutrition, skin care, exercise, or even vacations. But what you may not realize is that controlled breathing exercises offer health benefits, too. It’s believed that deep breathing exercises offer several positive impacts on a person’s mental and physical well-being, including reduced anxiety and stress levels. The technique you’ll learn here is known as the 4-7-8 method or “relaxing breath.”

4-7-8 breathing involves breathing in for 4 seconds, holding that breath for 7 seconds, then exhaling for 8 seconds. As the core part of most meditation and yoga practices, this method of controlled, rhythmic breathing promotes relaxation. It is believed that the 4-7-8 method can also help reduce anxiety, stress, and anger responses, promoting faster and deeper sleep, and even managing cravings and migraines.

How to Do It

Find a comfortable space to perform this method, either sitting or lying down, and place the tip of your tongue right behind your top front teeth.

NOTE: The first few times you do this breathing exercise, you may feel lightheaded, so please ensure you’re in a safe, comfortable space before starting. It is recommended to do no more than four cycles until you’re had more practice.

To use the 4-7-8 method, focus on the following breathing pattern:

  • Clear your lungs of air
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
  • Hold the breath for 7 seconds
  • Exhale forcefully through the mouth, pursing the lips and making a “whoosh” sound, for 8 seconds

If you find that you cannot perform this method for the pattern mentioned above, you can try a shorter pattern instead:

  • Clear your lungs of air
  • Slowly breathe in through your nose for 2 seconds
  • Hold the breath for about 3.5 seconds
  • Exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds

As long as the ratio is maintained, you’ll receive the same benefits until you can follow through with the full pattern. Continue practicing this exercise once or twice a day, like before you get out of bed in the morning and when you’re trying to fall asleep at night, for the full benefits and effectiveness. The more you practice, the more effective you’ll find it to be.