Square Breathing

"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!


Check Engine: a practice of radical acceptance

I'm a runner. Sometimes I place in my age group but I'm not setting any records out there. But that doesn't mean I don't have an ego that's competative gets off on praise and validation. And that ego, that competative and reward dependant ego, likes to call the shots and set the pace or milage or duration for my runs.


And my egos no dumb-dumb. It studies. It likes to peek at the speeds of fellow runners in my orange theory class. It likes to look at course records and race results for marathons and 10ks. It likes to people watch at the park and analyze what all the speedy kids are doing out there. It likes track my time on a course on strava and delights when I can beat that time. It can get caught up in the latest article or study on "the ten best ways to breathe" or "the new way to tie your shoes that will improve your vo2max" that grace the pages of facebook running blogs and runners magazines. Oh, its no dummy!


But it has blinders on. It doesnt see, doesnt listen to, or doesnt rioritize my body. It doesnt like to think about how I may be stressed at work or maybe didnt sleep or I ate too much or too little or I have this little niggle in my ankle. "F*** it!" My ego has a plan to keep, a record to beat, a person to impress. Which is fine. Those arent bad things. They just cant be the only thing. 


This may be western thinking and idealistic, but our ego brain and body operate best as a democracy. Each having its own say and right to free speech, but working for the good of the whole. It does not work out well when the ego (one muscle in our body) tries to be a dictating tyrant. The oppressed body always, one way or another, stages a revolt to overthrow the mean over-lord. This often comes in the form of fatigue and/or injury. Or the overlord gets drunk with power and developes a neurotic addiction to exercise, food, calorie counting, isolating, panic disorder, etc. 


So what do we do? How do we stay competative and improve and not let the ego (literally) run us into the ground!?! 


Answer: Mindfulness. Mindfulness of your body and mindfulness of your values. 


Most of us got into running, at least partially, for health, for energy, for the love of moving. But we lose sight of that. Too often, I see friends, clients, and fellow runners ending up sick or injured, too tired to socialize, and dreading the next long run. Its time to come back to values and let your run serve you instead of you being a slave to your run.