The tool for a quieter life – part 2

sleep-The 4-7-8-Breath

In the last post we wrote about the calming effect that breathing has on the body and mind. There are many breathing exercises, but one that is recommended by several doctors is called the four-seven-eight method. The man behind it is the Harvard Doctor, Dr Weil, who describes the technique as a natural sedative. The method is to count silently while you inhale, hold your breath and then exhale.

Proceed as follows

  • Keep the tip of the tongue just behind the teeth of the upper palate.
  • Inhale slowly through your nose and count of four. Feel your abdomen filling up with air while your chest is resting.
  • Hold your breath and count to seven.
  • Now breathe out with the mouth open and breathe out loudly while you count to eight. Gladly make a loud “woosh” sound.

How quickly you count is of no importance, but it is continuity that is important – that you count all the numbers as quickly. The recommendation is to do the exercise twice a day, preferably morning and evening. Every time is four cycles of the above description. It can take two months of training before the result comes. A positive aspect is that you can do this exercise anywhere, and if you have little time you can take the opportunity in the queue at the grocery store or on the bus to work. Here you can see Dr. Weil in person demonstrate the method.

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Healthier Life
Tieraona Low Dog, MD, writes in her book “Life is Your Best Medicine”, that during her career she has recommended the four-seven-eight method to their patients, and each employee should know it to help patients on their way to better health.

If you get into a routine of this type of breathing it can actually make you healthier. Stress, which is very common in today’s society, can have several consequences – pain, stomach problems and anxiety are some of them. When we end up in a stressful situation, the body makes everything possible to help us. It releases, as mentioned in previous posts, cortisol and adrenaline. The heart beats faster, blood pressure rises and energy is shifted from things that do not help the body to survival right in that moment, as the immune system and digestion, to those who help us to flee or fight. And the body does not disappoint us, if the stress is chronic the aid remains. In turn it affects the immune and digestive system negatively over time.

It’s not quite the help we need in chronic stress. But as I said, the body does not disappoint us. To our rescue comes our breathing. Research shows that deep breathing calms the nervous system which in turn reduces the levels of epinephrine and cortisol. Bodily functions can then begin to work normally again. Research also shows that this type of breathing can help with the above problems – pain, stomach problems and anxiety.

Deep breathing is a good means of ending up in the moment – a kind of mindfulness. When you focus on your breathing, you are in the moment, and the things we worry about disappear for a while. In society today, it is often the thoughts of the future or of what has been that stresses us, therefore the breathing does not only calm the body but it can also contribute to the stressful moments disappearing. The present is the only reality, even though it may be difficult to remember sometimes.

Helps you fall asleep
The four-seven-eight method can also help with sleep disorders, according to Dr. Weil. After 60 seconds, you should be able to fall asleep after six to eight weeks of exercise. Important to remember is that exercise is required to achieve results. There are doctors that are against falling asleep in 60 seconds, but that breathing has a calming effect, there is no doubt. Peace often leads to good sleep, even if it takes more than a few seconds sometimes.

To read part 1, please click here. 

Sources: Tieraona Low Dog, Life is your best medicine, p. 43-47
Lizette Borreli, A life hack for sleep,

About Malin Eriksson 52 Articles
Malin has previously worked in hotels, studied languages in France and studied history. One of her main interests is traveling, and now she spends much time in North Cyprus which she loves. It has great weather and nice people - and lot of interesting history!