Emotions and breath are a part of what makes us human, and we can control both.
Some emotions are awesome. Joy, love, and contentment are a part of what makes life worth living.
Others aren’t so awesome. Guilt, anger, frustration, and fear aren’t things we want to experience every day.
We’re not here to learn how to suppress negative emotions. Many of them are important, they warn us about danger or guide us towards our morals and values.
But sometimes our emotions can get a little out of hand, guiding our behavior in ways that we know don’t serve us; and we just can’t seem to help ourselves.
The truth is that we can help ourselves, we just need to learn how.
As it turns out, one of the best ways to control our emotions is by controlling our breath.
The Breath and Brain Connection
The way we breathe directly affects the chemistry of our body and brain.
For example, a 2018 study found that different breathing patterns affect levels of noradrenaline throughout the body. Noradrenaline is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is directly linked to focus, attention, and critical thinking.
We also know that deep diaphragmatic breathing reduces cortisol levels (often referred to as the stress hormone) in the blood.
So how does this breath and brain connection translate to emotion control?
100 Years of Research
Researchers have been exploring the link between breath and emotion for over 100 years.
One of the first cited studies in 1916 found that emotions directly affected breathing patterns in participants. People feeling fear, anxiety, or anger would have short, shallow, and irregular breathing patterns. Those who were experiencing joy or contentment would have deeper, more regular breathing.
Almost 100 years later, researchers found that this works both ways; that switching your breathing patterns can actually generate specific emotions.
It’s important to note that emotions are extremely complex and we still do not fully understand them. They can be linked to thought patterns, old memories, unconscious belief systems, physiological changes in the body, and more.
What we do know is that one of the best ways to control our emotions is by using our breath as a tool.
For combatting negative emotions and eliciting positive emotions like joy and contentment, the researchers recommend a slow, deep breathing pattern, inhaling and exhaling through the nose, not the mouth.
This is exactly what we’ve found in our own research. Check out this free, guided exercise called The Perfect Breath which will walk you through a breathing pattern for controlling your emotions.