With a motto like “The only easy day was yesterday,” Navy SEALs are known for their toughness. But we should probably start lauding these combat-ready professionals for being zen masters, too. The group has a quick, simple exercise that anyone can use to reduce stress and remain calm, cool, and collected. Got 16 seconds to try it?
Being a Navy SEAL is no walk in the park unless that walk is a mile-and-a-half trot that clocks in at less than 11 minutes and 30 seconds. To be a SEAL, you must be able to swim a 500-yard breast or side stroke in less than 12 minutes and 30 seconds, do 42 push-ups in two minutes, do six pull-ups, and do 50 sit-ups in two minutes. This training prepares you for war, after all.
On top of transforming your body into a fitness machine, you need the ability to keep cool under pressure, too. Maintaining a calm demeanor in every setting and scenario is crucial for a SEAL before, during, and after the chaos of combat. To do that, they do some deep breathing, using a tried-and-true tactic that can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure.
This calming technique is called box breathing, and you can try it yourself right this moment. Why not? You’ll see that each of the four steps is done for four seconds, hence the box part of the title. It will only take you 16 seconds to cycle through the method one time. Just repeat the cycle as long as it takes you to feel relaxed. (This SEAL recommends doing the technique for five minutes.) Follow along:
1. Breathe in for four seconds. Make sure all the air has been expelled from your lungs before you start to inhale. Once you start sucking up your air, make sure to really fill those lungs.
2. Hold your breath for four seconds. No more inhaling at this point, and don’t let any air escape yet.
3. Exhale for four seconds. Let the air out of your lungs at an even rate for the whole stretch of time, and make sure to get it all out.
4. Hold your lungs empty for four seconds. It may be tempting to suck in some more air immediately after letting it all out, but just hang on for four.
Whether you’re in combat, reading a tweet from a political nemesis, or just trying to keep cool at work, box breathing can keep you frosty in the most heated situation. Give it a try!