Four Square Breathing

Step by step instructions:

  1. Breathe in for a count of four
  2. Pause for a count of four
  3. Breathe out for a count of four
  4. Pause for a count of four
  5. Rinse and repeat. Do 4 cycles.

Four Reasons to Try "Four Square Breathing"

  1. It’s easy. If you can count to four and breathe, you can do it.
  2. You can do it anywhere. One DBT skill for distress tolerance is distraction. For this you can go for a walk, watch TV, squeeze silly putty, smell flowers, etc. The list is endless (and having all those options is empowering). But you don’t always have the time to go to the gym, or the money to buy an adult coloring book. And, if you’re in a meeting or on a date, let’s face it, playing with a slinky or going around chanting in lotus pose is just plain weird. But no one needs to know that you are controlling your breathing, refocusing, and calming your nervous system as you do four-square breathing.
  3. Turns on parasympathetic nervous system. I will spare you the nerdy science, but let’s just say that four square breathing can help take you from frenetic fight/flight/freeze to calm rest/digest/process mode.
  4. Gives anxious or obsessive brain a task. If your brain is going a million miles an hour in circles, sometimes it is soothed by doing something basic and concrete. Instead of letting your monkey mind swing from thought to thought, you can focus on counting your breathe and noticing your inhales and exhales. It is difficult for a brain to obsess about the talk you’re about to have or taxes or germ while simultaneously counting your breaths.

Now all you have to do is try it!