4-7-8 Breathing for Anxiety
The pranayama breathing exercises are the foundation of the 4-7-8 breathing technique. The traditional yoga technique of breath control is known as pranayama. Numerous advantages for calming down and reducing stress have been linked to these kinds of mindful breathing exercises. Dr. Andrew Weil created the 4-7-8 breathing method ss a “natural tranquillizer for the nervous system.”
How to practice 4-7-8 breathing.
Anywhere at any time, you can practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Try to practice at least twice daily when you are first learning, but you can practice as frequently as you like. Just perform the first four cycles in a row. Work up to eight cycles once you get used to it. At first, you might feel dizzy, but this will pass.
- Find a spot where you can sit upright in comfort.
- Keep your tongue pressed up against the back of your upper teeth.
- Make a whooshing sound as you completely exhale through your mouth, around your tongue. If it will help, purse your lips.
- For a count of four, seal your lips and take a deep breath through your nose.
- For seven counts, hold your breath.
- Exhale fully through your mouth while making a whooshing noise for eight counts.
- Thus, a cycle is finished. Continue for three more iterations.
Whenever you feel stressed, practice 4-7-8 breathing. As you use it, its power will increase. When you’re having trouble falling asleep or before you react to an upsetting situation, practice doing it.
Why 4-7-8 specifically?
Although falling asleep or overcoming anxiety may never be as simple as 1-2-3, some experts think a different sequence of numbers such as 4-7-8 comes much closer to working. More significant than the amount of time you spend on each phase is adhering to the ratio of four, seven, and then eight counts.
If it’s difficult for you to hold your breath, speed up the exercise while maintaining the same ratio for all three phases. You can learn to slow everything down and gradually deepen your breaths by practicing.
The parasympathetic nervous system, which is in charge of digesting and resting, can be activated by the 4-7-8 breathing technique, he added, which lowers sympathetic activity and puts the body in a state more conducive to restful sleep.
By engaging the parasympathetic nervous system, an anxious mind is given something other than “why am I not sleeping?” 43 healthy young adults were subjected to a study by a Thai research team looking at the immediate effects of 4-7-8 breathing on heart rate and blood pressure.
Following the assessment of these health-related variables and the measurement of their fasting blood glucose, participants underwent three sets of 4-7-8 breathing exercises, with one minute of regular breathing in between each set. In a study released in July 2022, researchers discovered that the technique reduced participants’ heart rates and blood pressure.
Reasons for 4-7-8 breathing.
This breathing method’s main application is to gradually reduce your stress response.
This entails consistently practicing in order to see long-term improvement. However, 4-7-8 breathing can also assist you in remaining composed under a variety of stressful circumstances. It can be used to reduce the signs and symptoms of stress, anxiety, and panic attacks. Here are some situations where using the 4-7-8 breathing technique might be useful.
- In the workplace, when under stress.
- Before delivering a speech or presentation at school or work.
- While stuck in traffic or on your daily commute.
- During the university or college’s exam period.
- When attempting to sleep at night.
- Early in the morning, as soon as you awaken.
- Whenever pre-class jitters occur in college or university.
- If you experience stress, worry, or overwhelm.
- When engaging in yoga or tai chi, when performing other relaxation techniques. (like progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, etc.).
- When engaging in mindful meditation.
- While trying to get some rest the night before a big event or early call.
Theta and delta brain waves, which signify someone is in the parasympathetic state, have increased when researchers have studied the effects of breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing. Improved pulmonary function and lower risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes are two benefits of slow breathing like the 4-7-8 technique. The exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen occurs normally during breathing.
The body quickly begins to produce less carbon dioxide when you upset this balance by exhaling more than you inhale. The blood vessels that supply blood to the brain narrow as carbon dioxide levels fall. Lightheadedness and other symptoms are brought on by this decrease in blood flow to the brain. This is why it’s frequently advised to start out slowly and work on the technique three to four cycles at a time until you feel comfortable.
Advantages of slow, deep breathing.
The relaxation response, as described by Harvard cardiologist Dr. Herbert Benson, can be produced by mindful breathing techniques like 4-7-8 breathing. You have a built-in stress response that is intended to assist you in handling potentially dangerous circumstances. Although the fight-or-flight reaction can help you survive, using it excessively to deal with daily stress can be detrimental to your health.
Your immune system is suppressed by this stress response, which can also lead to other health issues like high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. This stress response is stopped by the relaxation response, which induces a deep sense of relaxation. Other advantages could include:
Decreased anxiety. According to a study of college students, practicing pranayama helped them feel less anxious before tests. After two months of deep breathing exercises, elderly participants in another study reported feeling less anxious.
Decrease in blood pressure. It has been demonstrated that practicing slow, deep breathing for five minutes can lower blood pressure and heart rate.
Better sleep. Stress can have harmful side effects, including difficulty sleeping. When the stress response is active in your body, it can be very difficult to fall asleep. Deep, slow breathing exercises like 4-7-8 breathing can help you fall asleep by inducing your body’s relaxation response.
Reduced pain. In a study of 16 healthy individuals, it was discovered that those who engaged in relaxed deep breathing felt less pain than those who engaged in deep breathing that demanded a lot of sustained focus. There was less hostility, rage, and depression in both groups.
Enhanced concentration. In 2017, researchers looked at how eight weeks of slow, deep breathing affected stress levels, emotions, and attention. Following training, those who practiced deep breathing showed improved attention spans and lower levels of anxiety.
Risks to watch out for when practicing 4-7-8 breathing.
While there are many ways to practice 4-7-8 breathing, you should think about whether another strategy would be more effective for you than this one.
When using a breathing technique like 4-7-8 breathing, the biggest mistake people make is forgetting to practice. Being patient with yourself will help you until this becomes a regular part of your daily routine, which typically takes about 30 days to master.
How breathing slowly and deeply affects your body.
By engaging your parasympathetic nervous system, deep breathing like that used in the 4-7-8 breathing technique aids in calming your body. Your automatic nervous system is in charge of your body’s automatic processes, including digestion and heartbeat. The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system are the two components of this system.
Your body’s reaction to stress is managed by your sympathetic nervous system. Your body’s relaxation and sleep response is controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. Both of these are suppressed when one of these is turned on. This explains why the relaxation response can be induced by deep breathing so successfully.
It doesn’t matter which technique you employ. You can try a different approach if the 4-7-8 method doesn’t work well for you. Any slow, deep breathing technique should cause the relaxation response in you.
If you struggle with managing anxiety, please get in touch with our offices and speak to a Christian counselor who will form a customized treatment plan for you.
“Breakdown”, Courtesy of Aaron Blanco Tejedor, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Don’t Panic”, Courtesy of Tonik, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rage”, Courtesy of Usman Yousaf, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Depressed”, Courtesy of Joice Kelly, Unsplash.com, CC0 License