Use Your Breathing to Manage Your Emotions

For anyone who has difficulty managing emotions, a study carried out by staff from the University of Quebec and the University of Louvain demonstrated that breathing is one of the most effective ways to manage strong feelings.

The study, entitled Respiratory Feedback in the Generation of Emotion (Philippot & Blairy, 2002), involved two groups of volunteers. Group 1 was asked to produce four emotions (joy, anger, fear and sadness) through the use of memory, fantasy and by modifying their breathing pattern. During each emotion, scientists monitored and analyzed the volunteers’ breathing patterns – speed, location in the lungs, volume of air.  They used their findings to draw up a list of breathing instructions to go with each emotion.  Their findings might surprise people who believe emotions are set in stone and outside our control.

These instructions were then given to a second group of volunteers who had been told only that they were participating in a study of the cardio-vascular impact of breathing styles. Members of Group 2 were asked to breathe according to the instructions drawn up from the earlier experiment. At the end of the 45-minute breathing session, scientists discovered that, to varying but significant degrees, the four breathing patterns produced the anticipated emotional responses.

When we’re sad we sigh, when we’re angry, we breathe rapidly and when we’re afraid or anxious, we breathe shallowly and from the top of the lungs.  This study is important for anyone who wants or needs to better manage their emotional life.  Our feelings may run deep, to old memories and unconscious beliefs, but one element of feeling that we can control immediately and freely is our breathing.

I’m wondering has anyone else experienced the link between their breathing and their feeling?