Tom MacWright

Box breathing box

I built a box breathing box.

Box breathing is a technique for keeping track of and controlling breath: four seconds inhaling, four holding, four exhaling, four holding. I read about the trick a year or two ago, and rely on it to get back to normal when I notice I’m holding my breath. I hold my breath when I’m nervous.

You can do it by counting to four, but it’s nice to have an external guide so that you can just concentrate on breathing. There are guides already, like iPhone apps and websites. I wanted something else.

I wanted something that didn’t receive notifications or show me content, a specific object for this task.1 So I built this device from scratch.

The parts for the box breathing box, neatly arranged

The electronics came in one $50 order from Adafruit.

The microcontroller is overkill: a 32u4 Basic Proto Feather would have run more efficiently.

I spent much more time working through newbie mistakes and setting up software than I did writing code. There’s little code involved.

I wanted the object to be excellent. Tactile. Soft but stark. With access to my dad’s workshop and his advice, and with a craft box donated by my mom, I built an enclosure from wood and plexiglass. These images, too, were taken in his studio. Many thanks for help on this project.

Three-quarters view of the box breathing box with the top off

The enclosure is finished with many coats of a Minwax wipe-on polyurethane. The plexiglass top is lightly sanded to eliminate any shine.

Top-down view of the box breathing box

It’s essential that the hardware stays in place, so we constructed wood shims for the sides and near the toggle switch.

The top is drilled out for the SPDT toggle switch, and the bottom has a Micro-B USB port for charging and programming. That’s one of my favorite features of the Adafruit Feather devices - a built-in battery charging circuit.

Someday I’d like to build a simpler version, possibly with an analog circuit.

It’s a good object, and building it was lovely. This is a box breathing box.

View of the box breathing box in the hold-inhaled position