We Breathe The Way We Feel

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If we breathe the way we feel what would be the amazing possibilities if we could feel the way we breathe?

If you've ever seen someone taking a panic attack, or if you suffer from them yourself, you'll know that breathing patterns change dramatically in the midst of an attack.   Similarly, if you are calm just now and you think about a time when you were really frightened you'll notice that your breathing patterns will again change, sometimes within a few seconds.

Why is this?

When you think about it, the answer seems obvious: Your heart rate quickens, and more air is being taken into the lungs to supply more oxygen, basically the "˜fight or flight' response.

What if we take that knowledge, that we all seem to know about, from the "˜fight or flight' response and apply it to different areas of our lives to make us feel better.

A quick experiment

Try this exercise for 1 "“ 2 minutes

Imagine you are lying back in a boat, you are comfortable and safe, and both of your hands are dipped in the warm, still water.   Your boat is drifting along, and your hands are gently skimming through the warm water, and it feels amazing.      The water feels almost silky as you let it drift through your fingers, the warmth of the sun wraps you in a warm haze, all the time your hands skimming gently through the silky water.   Keep imagining this for 1-2 minutes.

If you did the exercise above you will notice that your breathing has become slower, you feel more relaxed and perhaps your eyes became a little heavier.

Now try this exercise for 1 "“ 2 minutes

You are walking down a well lit alley late at night, when suddenly the lights all blow and you are plunged into darkness.   You get a fright but keep walking.   Then you hear loud footsteps behind you, you look behind you but there is no one there.   The footsteps get louder, you walk faster, they follow.   You start to run, and you hear the sound of the person behind you, they're catching up, run faster, you're getting to the end of the alley, you can see light, the loud thumping of footsteps gets closer, you're frightened, you can almost feel their breath on the back of your neck, run faster"¦..

If you did that exercise you'll have noticed an increase in your breathing rate, you may have even felt your heart beating louder.

What this shows

These two quick exercises show two things: The conscious mind can control the body, but more importantly, you can direct your mind to how you want to feel.   Right now you may feel a little anxious, due to exercise number 2, but a few minutes previous to that you were feeling relaxed and calm.   You made this happen with your mind.

The exercises only took you a few minutes each, if that, and you were able to transport yourself into a different state of mind.   You can use this knowledge to deliberately control the way you are feeling throughout the day.   If you want to feel good, imagine experiencing something that would make you feel good in real life, if you want to get yourself pumped up for something imagine feeling that way in real life "“ a remembered state.

Another quick tip

Another way to drastically control your breathing rate is to smell something that is pleasant to you.   I love the smell of coconut, it reminds me of going on holiday and putting sun tan lotion on, and relaxing by the pool. Now when I want to feel chilled and relaxed I can take a quick smell of some sun tan lotion to transport me to a state of relaxation, the body is actually remembering a state of mind I had previously experienced "“ isn't the brain a beautiful thing.

How we can use this

So the whole point of this article was to show you that, yes, we do breathe the way we feel, but we can also feel the way we breathe.   So for different states of mind we have a different breathing pattern, which was shown with the little experiment above.   We have different breathing patterns for feeling excited, feeling relaxed, feeling creative, feeling sexy, feeling confident, feeling insightful and a lot more different states.   Isn't it then possible to get into any state we wish, at any time, just by imagining the state we would like to be in, therefore controlling our breathing to get into a remembered state.

If we breathe the way we feel and it is possible to manipulate the way we feel with our minds, to get into different states, then we can use that knowledge for our own benefits, and to help others.   Imagine getting children into a learning state by helping them control their breathing, imagine you want to feel creative, imagine you want to feel confident, imagine helping others feel confident. I've used this on my son recently, when he was having trouble with his maths homework. he was getting really uptight about and almost shouted in frustration 'I can't do this.' We spoke about it calmly for a few minutes and I subtly asked him what his best maths test was like, he went on to tell me how he felt and how he felt he could find maths quite easy sometimes. This went on for about ten minutes. He settled down into his maths homework and finsihed it within half an hour, telling me he just had a 'brain fart.' and that was the end him thinking 'I can't do this.'

As you read this you might see some correlation between what hypnotists, and NLPers do when they are working with their patients, and breathing patterns.   Milton Erickson, considered one of the greatest hypnotists in the world, often did not put his patients into a trance like state using hypnotic suggestion, he would tell stories which would help to change his patients breathing patterns, therefore it would change their state of mind (in itself this is a form of hypnosis).

Try this out for yourself.   Try and get into different states by doing a two minute exercise on each state.   Play around with it, I think you'll find the results really interesting. even better try and help others, without them knowing, by asking them questions about a time they felt good or a time they felt creative, play around, it's fun.

If you want to know more about this fascinating topic you can visit a great site I used to frequent a lot about 10 years ago:

As ever I'd love your comments on this.

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About the author

Steven Aitchison

Steven Aitchison is the author of The Belief Principle and an online trainer teaching personal development and online business.  He is also the creator of this blog which has been running since August 2006.