Mastering the 4-7-8 Breath Technique to Face Cravings

  Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Abstaining from a bad habit is not easy. Chemicals like nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar are very addictive to human beings. With sheer will power, an individual can often abstain from addictive substances for a short period of time, but inevitably a stressful event (or trigger) occurs in life. A trigger event may prompt the addict to consider “using” again to re-create the “feel good” sensation. This is the point when the addict has a choice to make: continue down the path of abstinence or give in to the trigger and once again partake in the addictive substance.

At JournalOwl, we believe that expressive writing can help individuals plan for and identify “trigger” events that will inevitably occur in the future. Although it would be nice to live in a bubble and avoid stressful events, the reality of the world is that recovering addicts must learn to face the world as it is. Example trigger events that you need to prepare yourself for include:

·  Spending time at a birthday party where cookies and cake are being served. You can either abstain from indulging, or you could leverage moderation as a tactic. Either way, you can prepare yourself mentally by journaling and writing out what you will do when faced with the next birthday party. Equipping yourself with a plan reduces your stress level and provides you with a sense of control.

·  Attending your nephew’s upcoming graduation party where alcohol is being served. If you a recovering alcoholic, moderation is not an option. At this type of event, emotions are high, and people usually enjoy themselves with several alcoholic drinks. You will need a game plan to avoid the temptation, especially in the early days of your quit.

A very simple technique that can be used to calm your emotions, gain mental clarity, and abstain from addictive behavior is known as the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, this technique is based on an ancient yogic technique called pranayama. Here is how to do it:

1. Exhale totally (through your mouth) – empty your lungs.

2. Take your tongue and gently press it behind the top of where your front teeth meet your gums.

3.  Breath air into your lungs to a count of 4 (count to yourself mentally as you breath in).

4. Now hold your breath for 7 seconds (once again, count to yourself for 7 seconds).

5. Exhale forcefully the air from your lungs (through your mouth) to a count of 8 – totally emptying your lungs.

6. Repeat this cycle a total of 4 times in one sitting.

According to Dr. Weil, you should practice this technique at least twice daily. He recommends working your way up to 8 cycles in one setting, but to never exceed the 8-cycle mark for this breath technique. Within 5 minutes, twice per day, you can literally change your body’s reaction to “trigger events”.

“It's a wonderful way to help deal with cravings for whatever -- cigarettes, piece of candy. Before you act on the craving, do the breathing exercise, and by the time your done - your craving is gone.”

— Dr. Weil, M.D.

Keep in mind, this is not an “instant fix” to your problems. You must build this into your nervous system over a period of time, say 45 to 60 days. Therefore, if you are a heavy user of nicotine, as an example, you can plan your future quit by starting the 4-7-8 breathing technique 2 months before your target quit date. As you journal daily and practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique, your resilience to overcoming addictive behavior will grow stronger.

Start Journaling Your Way to Better Habits Today


This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.

The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice or other institution.

Health Disclaimer

JournalOwl is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, medication, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptoms or conditions. JournalOwl is not authorized to make recommendations about medication or serve as a substitute for professional advice. You should never disregard professional psychological or medical advice, or delay in seeking treatment, based on anything you read on JournalOwl’s website or platform.

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