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Article  •  16 June 2022


The easy breathing technique that will help reduce your anxiety

These five easy steps will teach you how to do square breathing for anxiety. Using this simple mindfulness tool can help lower your heart rate and curb anxious thoughts the moment they arise.

Feeling anxious lately? You might want to check out Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Dr Julie Smith.

Jam-packed full of helpful advice, the book outlines several tips and tricks to help better your mental health. In each chapter, Smith sets forward simple tools that readers can add to their mental health toolboxes whether or not they're currently struggling. Guided by her years of experience as a clinical psychologist, Smith's tools are at once simple and transformative.  

Square breathing is the perfect example: an easy, quick, and effective method for staving off anxious feelings.

About square breathing

Square breathing is a slow breathing technique that specifically aims to alleviate anxiety. It is subtle enough that nobody will know you are doing it – but impactful enough to instantly make a difference. 

‘When anxiety is triggered, you start breathing more quickly. This is your body’s way of getting in extra oxygen to fuel the survival response,’ explains Smith. ‘You feel as though you cannot catch your breath. So you breathe faster with rapid, shallow breaths, then you have an excess of oxygen in your system.’

While it can be easy to get caught up in the moment, implementing square breathing can help bring your heart rate down, and, in turn, lower your anxiety response.

How to do square breathing

Square breathing is easy in theory, but it might take a bit of practice before you are totally comfortable doing it. Try practising when you are in a calm state so that you'll be ready to use this tool when anxiety strikes.

Step 1. Focus your gaze on something square: a nearby window, door, picture frame or computer screen.
Step 2. Focus your eyes on the bottom left-hand corner and as you breathe in, count to 4 and trace your eyes up to the top corner.
Step 3. Hold your breath for 4 seconds as you trace your eyes across the top to the other corner.
Step 4. As you breathe out, trace your eyes down to the bottom corner, counting to 4 once again.
Step 5. Hold for 4 seconds as you move back to the bottom left corner to start again.

How long to do square breathing

Sometimes it takes a while for the effects to kick in, so make sure to allow yourself ample time when you first try it.

‘If you try it for a few minutes and feel like it’s not working yet, keep going. It takes some time for your body to respond,’ says Smith.

About Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?

Love this tip? There are plenty more tools just like it Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?

Marie Claire called it ‘an inside scoop into a therapist's tool kit’. Jay Shetty, wellness influencer and podcast host is also a fan of Dr Smith. ‘I'm blown away by her ability to communicate difficult ideas with ease, simplicity and practicality. Amazing. Go and buy it now!’

For more helpful tricks like this one, check out the book

Feature Title

Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?
A positive, practical handbook for better mental health from clinical psychologist and multi-million-follower TikTok sensation, Dr Julie Smith
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