Those trained in marksmanship know the importance of controlling your breathing. Many of us are taught to fire on after the exhale, during that natural respiratory pause. This allows us to focus on our consistency and shot placement.
Even in times of duress, gaining control of your breath is a way to center yourself with chaos all around you. Allowing us to utilize our fundamentals and perform to the level of our training.
So, it is no surprise that many veterans have turned to meditation, or mindful breathing, to help them feel more in control of their day-to-day stress.
You do not have to be some tantric sage to reap the benefits of meditation. You just need to find a quiet place, find what works for you, and start. Here are some tips to help you along the journey.
Take a slow inhale while you count to four. Hold your breath while you count to four. Exhale while you count to four, and you guessed it, hold the exhale for a nice four count. Four sides, hence the box. This technique is scientifically proven to lower stress. You do not have to ponder the complexities of the universe, just draw your attention to each breath. Focus on the rhythm your body creates, and the sensation of each side of the box.
This technique can also help you through anxious moments and help calm your heart rate by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. Give it a go next time you are stuck in traffic, or your partner picks a fight over the dishes.
You can do box breathing in a firefight, but it is much more relaxing if done somewhere peaceful. Some tranquil music, noise canceling headphones, a soft light source, and boom you have a personal escape. You can also order a Himalayan salt lamp online for relatively cheap. I’m not quite sold on the mystical properties, but it sure does make some nice mood lighting.
You can also find a nice spot outdoors to just exist while taking deep breaths. Box breathing while scuba diving is some of the most peaceful and relaxing moments of my life. Get creative!
Just like building those sweet quads, and boulder biceps, it takes repetition. You may get bored at first, so set a reasonable goal. Many of us stared at an open desert on guard, or barracks wall on watch, for hours on end. However, you can start with 2-5 minutes of mindful breathing, and go from there. The Department of Veteran Affairs also has an app you can download for free, called the Mindfulness Coach, with tips, hints, and progress tracking.
There you have it. Now get out there and relax your ass off.