TikTok's 'Finger Breathing Method' Promises Peak Relaxation

According to a recent report on stress by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of American adults under the age of 35 say they're too stressed to function most days. If you can relate, it might feel like your only hope is calling in sick and having a "bed rot" day, but a simple technique making the rounds on TikTok could give you the peace of mind you need to keep going.

The method is most commonly known as the "finger breathing method," though it sometimes goes by the name "five finger breathing," and — as you might've guessed — it combines deep breathing and the use of your fingers. To date, videos promoting the relaxation technique have racked up nearly 38 million views on TikTok, with fitness buffs, psychologists, and stressed-out parents all getting in on the trend.

In one popular clip, Shaddia, a licensed therapist who goes by @MindfullyMadeTherapy, recommends finger breathing for people struggling with anxiety or stress, saying, "Sometimes, just breathing isn't enough and you need a coping skill that is multisensory involving other senses to help distract or calm down the brain." Even if it takes a little more effort than your average inhale-exhale breathing technique, the finger breathing method can be done any time, anywhere — in bed, at the doctor's office, or right before a big work presentation.

How to chill out using the finger breathing method

Before you scroll on, assuming that the finger breathing method will be too difficult to figure out — because we know you don't need any more stress in your life — know that this technique requires no lengthy explainers. A straightforward video like one by the TikTok account @MovementGenius can help you get the gist in literally seconds.

Even though it's often dubbed the five finger breathing technique, it actually requires the work of six fingers in total. Using the pointer finger of one hand, trace the fingers on the other, starting at the outside of your pinky. Move up and down each of the five fingers, take a deep breath when you trace up and exhale when you trace down.

When you finish tracing the five fingers of one hand, repeat or switch to the other hand. You can adjust the speed depending on what feels comfortable to you, though many TikTokers prefer a slow breathing pace. You can also try making your exhalations longer than your inhalations, a pattern that some research has associated with lower stress levels.

Why the method works

The finger breathing method seems almost too simple to work, but Dr. Judson Brewer, an anxiety expert who helped popularize the technique, swears by it. "Five-finger breathing reboots the computer," Dr. Brewer told The New York Times. "It takes so many sense modalities to do it, people tend to calm down quite a bit." In other words, the combination of touch and breath slows the brain down, which, according to the Cleveland Clinic triggers the release of feel-good endorphins. So while you focus on tracing your fingers, chemical changes are occurring inside the body that can help you overcome the stressful moments in your day.

The finger breathing method can also be a form of mindfulness, where you direct your attention to sensations in the body, rather than the project deadline approaching on your calendar or how to make up with your best friend after the fight you had the day before. Being in the here and now offers numerous benefits, according to Healthline. You might notice a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms, as well as an improvement in overall well-being.

Of course, don't expect one attempt at the technique to erase all your worries for good. Still, it's a useful tool to try the next time you notice your stress building and racing thoughts taking over. Breathe, trace each finger, and notice your tension melt away.