Practicing the 4-6 Breaths Stress Management Technique using the Heartrate Coherence+ App

The Breath and Stress

When we breathe in, we are activating the sympathetic (fight and flight) nervous system. When we breathe out, we are activating the parasympathetic (relaxation) nervous system. By increasing the ratio of time spent in relaxation, we relax the body. This sends signals to the brain that all is well.

By breathing regularly and smoothly we are sending signals to the brain that all is well. This results in reduced heart rate variability. Our heart beats with less variation of time and helps to induce calmness.

4-6 Breaths

The 4-6 breath breathing pattern is an easy breathing pattern that helps many students to become calmer. If this causes you and discomfort in any way please do not practice it. Instead you can learn some of the relaxation exercises.

To practice the 4-6 breaths follow these steps

  • Breathe in while counting to four seconds and breathe out while counting to six.
  • When you have achieved a comfortable natural rhythm, breathe in and out as smoothly as possible
  • To breathe smoothly, inhale the same amount of air at the beginning, the middle and the end of both the in breath and the out breath.
  • When you have achieved a comfortable natural rhythm again, focus your attention on the point where the out-breath stops, just before the in-breath begins. I call this the bottom of the breath.
  • Notice how it feels, each time the cycle of the breath returns there.
  • Maintaining the rhythm and cycle of the breath, as you breathe in, focus your attention on the top of your head
  • You may have to touch the crown of your head with your hand to focus on it, but once that is done you will have tuned in
  • As you breathe out, focus your attention on the movement of your belly button as it moves in
  • As the out breath finishes notice the bottom of the breath
  • Repeat this cycle with each breath for a few minutes
  • You will find that you become calmer

To assist in practicing this exercise I have added a youtube video that explains how to download, install the app, use it and analyse the results.

Let me know if any questions arise.

Mindfulness meditation stress and the military


ABC US News | International News

Here’s a quote from Sgt. Nathan Hampton – US Marine Corps on the mindfulness meditation sessions that were included in his counter insurgency training prior to deployment in Afghanistan.

“A lot of people thought it would be a waste of time. Why are we sitting around a classroom doing weird meditative stuff? But over time, I felt more relaxed. I slept better. Physically, I noticed that I wasn’t tense all the time. It helps you think more clearly and decisively in stressful situations. There was a benefit.”

From Patrick Hruby – The Washington Times
Wednesday, December 5, 2012

5 quick wins for reducing anxiety

5 Quick wins for reducing anxiety

Here are some quick wins for you if you are in a difficult place. They will take two weeks to really work, which in the world of chronic anxiety is lightning speed!

1. Stop wearing a watch unless it is utterly essential

If you don’t have a busy schedule you don’t need to constantly be aware of the time and if you have a mobile you have access to the time if you really need it. Checking the time constantly keeps you thinking of some future event and moves the focus of your attention away from the present moment.

For most of us, for most of the time, the present moment is overwhelmingly good. The future is always unpredictable and full of potential threats, so it becomes a source of anxiety. leave the watch in a drawer.

2. Stop drinking caffeine

Caffeine from tea, coffee and various soft drinks promotes anxiety by releasing adrenaline or epinephrine as it is also known. This promotes a fight or flight response in the body promoting alertness and suppressing sleep.

The effects of caffeine are prolonged and it takes two weeks for the body to return to normal.

3. Reduce your news consumption

If you have every wondered why the news is full of bad news then take a look at this link:

This post explains to marketeers how using negative superlatives such as ‘never’ and ‘worst’ outperforms positive superlatives such as ‘always’ and ‘best’.

Each newspaper competes with every other newspaper for the worst possible news. The news media scours the globe for bad news. Viewed through the lens of the news, the world soon becomes a scary place which feeds into our personal beliefs. We all have enough challenges and limitations in our lives without adopting ones that are served up to us by the media.

Discovering bad news is a survival trait that we are programmed for. Our ancestors ‘needed’ to know whether there was plague in a neighbouring village and those that were motivated to move by this bad news would have been the ones that survived. Now that we are no longer in a life or death environment this morbid fascination with bad news works against us.

Ask yourself when was the last time that something you learned from the news changed your life or even, when has anything you read in a newspaper materially benefited you in any way?

We feel we need to ‘keep up with current affairs’ but as someone that stopped reading newspapers several years ago, I still find that there are so many people reading the news all around me that I am aware of the major news anyway and do you ‘really’ need to know about the rest?

Here are a couple of links that may help you to see all of this in a newer perspective:

Why no news is good news from the Guardian m/media/2013/apr/12/news-is-bad-rolf-dobelli

4. Detox from the TV and if you can, stop watching it altogether

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.Groucho Marx

The TV is a parody of reality. I agree that some programmes are educational but the information they provide is largely available through internet research with the difference that you are in control of what you learn and where you go to learn it. Enough to satisfy your knowledge without the baggage of knowing intimately  who is going to get kicked out of the Big Brother room next!

5. Digital detox

I think that there is far too much emphasis on how carrying mobile devices is bad. In itself it isn’t bad. What is bad is the significance we place on the messages we receive. We fail to filter them and so they continually grab our attention dragging us into some unpredictable future event from the overwhelmingly good present moment.

There are a number of strategies that help such as turning off notifications but if we need to respond instantly then we need to find the time to ourselves.

Here are some strategies:

  • Put all of your devices in a drawer on one day over a weekend
  • Put all of your devices away after a certain time in the evening
  • Filter out notifications so you only get the ones that really matter
  • Go on a digital detox holiday

To read about my recent solo retreat and digital detox go here: