Some people think they are too busy for meditation. We understand that breathing techniques that take a long time might not fit into your schedule. But, five-finger breathing is a great way to calm down and release stress no matter where you are when you are short on time!
Five-finger breathing is almost a take on box breathing. But it might be better for people who like physical tools to help them. Using the index finger on one hand, you slowly trace the outline of your other hand and its fingers — thumb to pinky. As you draw up a finger, you breathe in; as you run down the finger, you breathe out. Once you have finished your hand’s complete outline, you do it again in the reverse direction. It’s a way to slowly manage your breathing.
This is a “multisensory” practice, unlike box breathing, where you picture a box as you breathe. It connects you to your body and gives your brain more to focus on so you can’t worry. You’re not just thinking about breathing; you’re also feeling something and have visual cues.
The technique was invented by Dr. Judson Brewer, director of research and innovation at Brown Univ.’s Mindfulness Center. Dr. Brewer says that as you concentrate on breathing, feel your hand and watch what you are doing, you don’t have room for stress in your brain and compares it to a computer with too many tasks.
“Five-finger breathing reboots the computer,” said Dr. Brewer. “It takes so many sense modalities to do it, people tend to calm down quite a bit.”
While the practice can’t banish the thoughts completely, it can change how you are feeling. Once you are done, you will be much calmer. When the worries come back, you’ll be in a better mindset to handle them with less stress and get less worked up about it.
There is a different version of five-finger breathing called “five-finger relaxation.” It wasn’t developed by a doctor, but some people swear by it! It only takes the fingers of one hand. While in a comfortable position, you close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply. You touch your thumb to your index finger and think of a time your body felt tired in a good way — like after swimming or hiking. You focus on the sensation of heaviness you felt in your body after that hard but fun workout. Then you touch your thumb to your middle finger and remember a loving experience when you felt close and connected to someone. You touch your thumb to your ring finger and think of the nicest compliment you ever had and remember how it made you feel and embrace the sentiment. Lastly, touch your pinky with your thumb, think of the most beautiful place you have ever been and imagine yourself there. You can open your eyes when you are ready, feeling more centered. People who use this technique say they can remember the experience associated with each finger and bring it to the forefront of their minds by touching their fingers later in the day.
We think that either of these breathing exercises can be great when you’re short on time and feeling stressed. Finding ways to relax is different for everyone, but these are excellent for their simplicity and ease. Hopefully, they can help you unwind on stressful days!