This simple technique can help alleviate stress and anxiety, promote sleep, and lead to a healthier and more balanced overall mindset.
Wash your hands for 20 seconds, that’s what we’ve been told for the last year and a half. It’s a critical key to better health, and during the pandemic, this handwashing technique has become a firm habit for many. But with one second less, there’s another technique you can use to improve your mental health, too.
It’s called the 4-7-8 method, and it could hardly be any easier. You just have to carve out an entire 19 seconds for yourself and put it into practice. It works anywhere, anytime, and for anyone. (Not entirely true… don’t try this while driving or operating heavy machinery!) It will help reduce stress, ease anxiety, and promote ‘clear-headedness’ — always a good thing. It can even help you fall asleep more easily. It will absolutely induce a state of relaxation and calm.
Here’s what to do:
- First, empty your lungs of air through relaxed, slightly parted lips.
- Then, inhale slowly and deeply through your nose over a period of 4 seconds. Fill your lungs.
- Hold the breath for 7 seconds. (Yup, you need to count it off in your mind: One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand….) This is the most important part of the process, so no shortcuts!
- Slowly exhale through slightly parted lips over a span of 8 seconds.
That’s it! 4-7-8. You can repeat this cycle, as well, up to a total of four times, and you will tangibly feel the relaxation and de-stressing in your body and mind. Some people claim that using this method when lying in bed at night can get them to fall asleep within a minute or two, as well.
During this time of increased anxiety, social isolation, and general weariness from a world gone mad, a simple little breathing technique can truly go a long way to helping us take the edge off and reclaim some balance, if only a little bit.
According to Healthline, there is one important caveat to keep in mind: This breathing technique shouldn’t be practiced in a setting where you’re not prepared to be relaxed. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be used for falling asleep, it can still put the practitioner into a state of genuine relaxation. Make sure you don’t need to be fully alert immediately after practicing your breathing cycles.
The 4-7-8 breathing method was developed by Dr Andrew Weil, who based it on an ancient technique used in yoga called pranayama. By simply exerting control over our breathing, we can induce relaxation and curb anxiety and stress.
So forget 1-2-3 (and A-B-C and do-re-mi, too) and give 4-7-8 a try… you might be surprised at just how effective it can be!
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