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Mindfulness: Tactical Breathing

Today we keep it simple.

Here is an easy ‘go-to’ breathing technique you can use to help reset yourself. Whether you are recovering from exposure to a stressful situation or heading into one, this is one of the best reset breathing patterns you can access for yourself.

It’s referred to as Tactical Breathing, Combat Breathing, Box Breathing, or 4×4 Breathing. Whatever you call it, just remember the number 4 and hold.

It’s simply:

  1. Inhale to the count of 4 (fill the bottom of your lungs to push out your belly area)
  2. Hold to the count of 4
  3. Exhale to the count of 4
  4. Hold to the count of 4


The ‘Holding’, particularly after you have exhaled, is important.  It puts a bit of pressure on your diaphragm which has direct contact with your Vagus nerve and your parasympathetic nervous system. This coordination helps your body/mind slow itself down for optimum integration, calm thinking, anxiety reduction, and a sense of steadiness.

A sequence that works well for me:

  • ‘Box breath’ for a minute or so
  • then take a deep cleansing breath
  • then let your breathing return to a natural rhythm for a few cycles in and out
  • start the Box Breathing again.

Take good care.

Lisa Wellington

Lisa Wellington is a Certified Mindfulness Teacher who writes about integrative practices that downshift stress, increase insight, and jumpstart joy.

She is best known for her work with law enforcement professionals as well as those challenged by housing instability and addiction. Trained in the Fine Arts at Washington State University, she specializes in group training that engages participants’ inherent creativity.

If she is not under a stack of books about psychology and spirituality, she can be found at a Puget Sound beach or nearby trail, always searching for the absurd, which is her superpower. 

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