Practical Psychology: Controlling our breathing can clear, refresh our minds

As our presidential election approaches, are you anxious, depressed, excited, discouraged or stresse

Categories: Life & Arts

As our presidential election approaches, are you anxious, depressed, excited, discouraged or stressed out? You may want to try breathing better.

Because your breathing pattern has more power than you may know. It exercises more influence over your physical, mental and emotional health than almost any other function, except for the pumping of your heart.

We often think brain function is the most influential system in our bodies. But without breath, the brain rapidly stops functioning and physically deteriorates.

Immediately after birth, the newborn must breathe. It is an absolute necessity. The breath of life begins at birth and sustains and nourishes us throughout life. Learning to manage or control our breath is an extremely valuable skill. Harnessing the power of the breath can lead you to be in control of your psychological/emotional health and well-being.

Multiple facets

Here are some influences of the breath you may have never considered.

Another word for inhaling is to “inspire.” When we die, breathe our last breath, we are said to “expire.” Inspiration brings into our bodies oxygen, the fuel we burn to maintain body energy vital to movement and body warmth. When someone speaks with energy and enthusiasm, we often characterize that person as inspirational. To inspire others is to energize them into action. They breathe differently and use the resulting energy to motivate themselves to take action. Each of us has been inspired to take some action.

Breathing is the only vital function that can be voluntarily controlled or modified. Or we can decide not consider breathing at all, and our unconscious takes over and we don’t have to think about it. Actually, most of us don’t think about our breathing much anyway. Too bad.

Changing your breath pattern allows you to manage your anxiety. When we breathe from our abdomen’s in a deep, long and slow manner, our anxiety is diminished. Even panic attacks can be managed by re-inhaling the carbon dioxide we exhaled in previous exhales. That is why it is often recommended to those in panic that they breathe into a paper bag.

If you want to change your mood, change your breath pattern.


Meditators are keenly aware of the power of the breath. They use their breathing pattern to still their minds, relax their bodies, and focus their attention. Counting your breath cycles allows you to become focused on a single activity. And single-pointed attention is a highly meditative mental state.

We are all familiar with the sigh. Sighing is a large breath cycle designed to release bodily tension. Rapid abdominal breathing, or panting, creates more of our body’s natural painkillers, the endorphins. Endorphins are partially responsible for the runner’s high often experienced by athletes. They also minimize the pain of childbirth. That is why women are encouraged to pant when giving birth.

Refreshing mind

Abdominal panting can clear your head. When you are mentally fatigued or have too many thoughts, you can refresh your thinking by taking a minute out to pant. This kind of breath control cleanses and refreshes the body/mind.

Singers, performers and public speakers are taught to project their voices through the use of abdominal breathing.

More than any other activity, how one uses breath and body energy accounts for personal charisma. So if you want to become more appealing to others, learn to manage your breath. Have you ever seen someone so beautiful and charismatic that they “took your breath away?”

Hopefully, you can begin to understand the invaluable skill of breath control. You can exercise more power and influence over your experience of being alive than you perhaps ever thought. Learn breath management skills and you learn life-management skills.

Keep in mind what Kabir, the 15th-century Indian poet once wrote: “Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God? He is the breath inside the breath.” Learn of your own breath of life and you may just learn of the “breath inside the breath.”

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