The Way You Breathe Could Be Affecting Your Emotions and Energy. Learn how to harness the power of breath for improved well-being.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”- Amit Ray
Have you ever noticed how your breathing patterns change when you get angry, stressed or anxious?
Recently, I was working on a project at home and was running out of time to meet the approaching deadline. As the hours and minutes started to disappear my emotional barometer started to escalate before I became aware of an important thing:
I was not breathing! – Or should I say I was not breathing correctly. My breaths were shallow and short.
Shallow breathing stimulates the ‘stress response’. Once this stress response, is triggered, it becomes problematic to concentrate, perform, relax, or make empowering choices.
What should I have been doing to overcome the problem?
Understanding the Power of the Breath
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts”- Thich Nhat Hanh
Breathing is an automatic 24/7 process; however for many of us we don’t have an appreciation of its true potential.
If we took the time to observe or monitor our unconscious breathing, we would see a range of changes that are controlled moment to moment relevant to our psychological and emotional needs. It speeds up or slows down, it intensifies or it quietens. It’s alive, constantly responding and reacting, adjusting itself to meet demands.
The breath is one of the most powerful tools at our disposal for self-regulating our emotions, generating energy, and enhancing overall health. For over 3,000 years, the philosophy of yoga has acknowledged the role of the breath for physical health and calming the mind.
Much scientific research over the years has explored the connection between emotions and breathing patterns.
A good example was a study conducted by Pierre Phillipot. He investigated the link between emotions and breathing from differing perspectives.
Participants of the study were divided into two separate groups and asked to undertake two different tasks.
The first group was asked to stimulate emotions by only changing their breathing pattern and describe how they achieved the outcome.
- Panic – short, sharp breaths
- Anger – long, forced breaths
- Calmness – slow, steady breaths
- Happiness – long inhalations and long exhalations
In the follow up group the new participants were instructed on how to breathe and asked to name an emotion stimulated by the breath. With no knowledge of the previous group’s results, the second group experienced feelings that matched perfectly with the first group participants simply by mirroring their breathing patterns.
What’s the importance of this information?
By combining the wisdom of sages and recent research we have available breathing techniques that can improve performance, manage stress, and improve our health.
What do we mean by the term breathing technique?
“Conscious breathing heightens awareness and deepens relaxation” – Dan Brule
To achieve a desired state or condition we need to consciously apply the breath in a certain way to achieve the desired outcome.
The key to managing our emotional states is becoming aware of how we breathe as we go through our day. Emotions and thoughts along with changing moods and attitudes can pull control of the breath away.
The quality of your mind and your emotions is determined by the quality of your breath. By controlling your breath, you can control your emotions.
An emotion is the activation of energy. Therefore, we need to be consciously aware of our energy, and be able to channel or manage our emotions if we want to remain healthy and in control.
When we get knocked off centre we need to be able to catch ourselves. In that moment we need to use relevant breathing techniques to return us to a place of calm and clarity, regardless of the emotional situation.
How can we change the energy in the body?
“Breathing control gives man strength, vitality, inspiration, and magic powers”- – Zhuangzi.
Different breath techniques can ignite different states—either elevating energy or relaxing the body. By focusing on the inhale, you can turn on the sympathetic branch of your autonomic nervous system. Alternatively, by focusing on your exhale, you can switch on the parasympathetic branch.
In simple terms:
- When you want to charge yourself up, focus on the inhale.
- When you want to calm yourself down, focus on the exhale.
The skillful use of the breath is essential if we want to provoke the desired benefit.
“Regulate the breathing, and thereby control the mind”. – B.K.S. Iyengar
If we want to reduce stress, relax, and experience more peace we need to concentrate on using slower, steady deep breaths to calm the mind and body.
If we want to feel more energised and alert, then we would concentrate on breathing sharp and fast.
Here are 4 breathing techniques to help:
- When you want to calm yourself down, slow your breathing down. Box breathing is helpful during extreme stress, where you practice the following: inhale for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, wait at the very end of the exhale for a count of 4, and repeat. This is a very deep breathing exercise that has been shown to calm and regulate the nervous system.
- When you want to ramp up your energy, speed your breathing up. Keep your mouth closed and inhale and exhale rapidly through your nose with quick, short breaths. Try doing that for about 10 seconds. Take a 15-30 second break and breathe normally. Repeat several times.
- When you want to focus your mind, concentrate on the in and out breath. Inhale through your nose for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound for a count of 8. This is one breath. Begin again, and repeat the cycle 3-6 times
- When you want to take advantage of a break to quickly recharge and recover. Put your hands over your collar bone and focus breathing in and out through the mouth into your upper chest. Feel the chest expanding and shoulders rising. Hold the breath in for a 2-3 count and then let out fully. Continue for 3-5sets.
Take Away Message
“Take a deep breath and enjoy your life”. – Author Unknown
It is important to get into the habit of observing your breath and taking control of it when you need to. By learning to observe on a daily basic you allow yourself the possibility to take control and make the changes.
Next time you feel a powerful emotion, or the next time your emotional energy is activated, teach your body-mind system a better way to process that energy. Use the breath!
Do you have a way of controlling your emotions?
Share your thoughts below.
If you need help learning how to use the breath to regulate your emotions please reach out. I am here to help.