We all know that taking a deep breath can calm us down and bring our brain into a more useful state. It can also create a more sustained and improved mood and reduce anxiety if practiced even a few minutes a day.

Here are two wonderful techniques to support you every day.

In both techniques, the ‘Holding’, particularly after you have exhaled, is important.  It puts a bit of pressure on your diaphragm which has direct contact with your Vagus nerve and your parasympathetic nervous system. This coordination helps your body/mind slow itself down for optimum integration, calm thinking, anxiety reduction, mood regulation, and a sense of steadiness.

This first technique is called Cyclic Sighing.

Take a deep inhalation through your nose.  Then exhale in a relaxed release of air, falling out from your mouth without force, as if sighing after completing a satisfying task.


After 30 cycles, when you exhale, hold that gentle pressure for 15 seconds. Then inhale again. Try this cycle for 5 minutes a day.

This second technique goes by many names. It’s commonly referred to as Tactical Breathing, Combat Breathing, Box Breathing, or 4×4 Breathing.

It’s simply:

  1. Inhale to the count of 4 (fill your belly area)
  2. Hold to the count of 4
  3. Exhale to the count of 4
  4. Hold to the count of 4

A sequence that works well for me:

  • ‘Box breath’ for a minute or so
  • then take a deep cleansing breath
  • then let your breathing return to a natural rhythm for a few cycles in and out
  • start the Box Breathing again.

These techniques are always available to you.  Use them regularly to build a visceral reminder that calm and steady is at hand.

Lisa Wellington
Lisa Wellington

Lisa Wellington is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher who writes about integrative practices that downshift stress, increase insight, and jumpstart joy.

She is best known for her work with law enforcement professionals as well as those challenged by housing instability and addiction. Trained in the Fine Arts at Washington State University, she specializes in group training that engages participants’ inherent creativity.

If she is not under a stack of books about psychology and spirituality, she can be found at a Puget Sound beach or nearby trail, always searching for the absurd, which is her superpower. 

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