Over the past decade, I have tried to start a few different new habits while also attempting to get rid of “bad” habits.
Where there was success, there was also setback. I have learned to treat myself kindly in the face of habit formation and change, as this work is not easy.
Across all of the habits I have tried to start or quit over the last decade, there is one habit that really stands out.
It has had a profound impact on both my physical and mental well being, while also improving my relationships with others.
The best part of this habit is that it is really simple to do and easy to turn it into a consistent routine.
This habit is the 4-7-8 breath, a controlled breath that I use to start my day, as well as finish it.
I also use this breath anytime I face a stressful situation.
The physiological impact of this breath is that it allows you to take deeper breaths and slow down your breathing rate.
By doing this, you activate your parasympathetic nervous system to kick in your relaxation response, thus allowing you to manage stressful situations in a more productive way.
Interested in trying it?
The 3 Steps of the 4-7-8 Breath
1) Inhale through your nose for a 4-count.
2) Hold your breath for a 7-count.
3) Exhale through your nose or mouth for an 8-count and notice how relaxed your body is as you exhale.
In the face of a stressful situation, the moment you start inhaling through your nose, you should feel an immediate sense of control.
From there, in the silence that unfolds as you hold your breath, you might notice your heart beating, which is a great moment to be grateful to be alive and healthy.
If you can’t hold your breath for the full 7-count, you shouldn’t force it, so just start exhaling early if need be.
The most important part of this process is the last step, the 8-count exhale.
As you move to this part of the 4-7-8 breath, you might want to focus your attention on your shoulders to notice how much your whole body softens and relaxes during the exhale.
There is such a sense of peacefulness as we observe the body exhaling.
I don’t usually do more than three of these full 4-7-8 breaths in a row, and then return back to my regular uncontrolled breathing, but those three controlled 4-7-8 breaths have a significant grounding effect on me.
If you try this breath and find it helpful, you might want to build it into your daily routine.
One way to do this is to place a sticky note that says 4-7-8 somewhere where you will see it several times through your day.
A great place is on your washroom mirror, which would remind you to do it when you first wake up and before you go to bed.
From there, you might just catch yourself taking a 4-7-8 breath during a stressful moment non-consciously.
As we enter a new decade that will be more fast paced than the last one, the ability to pause, take a deep breath, and regain our sense of focus and balance will be an incredibly valuable skill.
Let me know how it goes…