How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 8 – Deep Breathing To Manage Your Emotions

How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 8 – Deep Breathing To Manage Your Emotions

How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 8 - Deep Breathing To Manage Your Emotions

Breathing exercises, also known as “diaphragmatic breathing” or “deep breathing,” are defined as an efficient integrative mind-body workout for managing stress and psychosomatic conditions. Diaphragmatic breathing involves contraction of the diaphragm, expansion of the abdomen, and deepening of inhalation and exhalation, thereby decreasing the rate of breathing and maximizing the amount of blood gasses. The benefits of diaphragmatic breathing have been studied in conjunction with meditation, ancient Eastern religions (such as Buddhism), and martial arts. It is considered a core component of yoga and Tai Chi Chuan (TCC) and contributes to emotional balance and social adjustment as do specific rhythmic movements and postures.

Psychological studies have shown that breathing exercises are an effective non-pharmacological intervention for improving emotions including reductions in anxiety, depression, and stress. A one-day breathing exercise has been found to alleviate the emotional exhaustion and depersonalization caused by workplace burnout. A 30-session intervention lasting 5 minutes daily can significantly reduce anxiety in pregnant women experiencing preterm labor. In addition, similar effects on anxiety were observed in a 3-day intervention study in which breathing exercises were performed 3 times daily. Further evidence from a randomized controlled trial (RCT) suggests that a 7-day intensive inpatient yoga program that included pranayama (breathing exercises) reduced anxiety and depression in patients with chronic low back pain. A number of RCTs on TCC and yoga have also provided supportive evidence.

Currently, breathing exercises are used in the clinical treatment of mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), movement disorders. Previous studies have observed impaired attention and alertness associated with breathing disorders in dementia and sleep-disordered breathing in people of all ages.

Recent studies suggest that there is a bidirectional relationship between breathing and attention. A growing number of clinical studies have shown that breathing, including meditation, may represent a new nonpharmacological approach to improving certain aspects of attention.

Mindfulness, for example, contributes to attention and orientation but is inconsistent with monitoring. Moreover, an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction showed a greater effect on the attention-altering component than a 1-month intensive mindfulness retreat. Focused attention meditation is a Buddhist practice that requires maintaining selective attention and a sense of breathing. Three months of intensive focused attention meditation has been found to reduce variability in attentional processing of target sounds and improve performance on attentional tasks. Some studies have simultaneously examined cognitive and emotional improvements, suggesting that brief mental training can improve sustained attention and reduce fatigue and anxiety

Some researchers believe that the relaxation produced by quiet breathing helps manage inattention symptoms in children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) These findings led to the development of a breath-guided biofeedback game called ChillFish that improved sustained attention and relaxation levels in children.

Studies examining the physiological mechanism of the effects of breathing interventions have pointed to a common physiological basis underlying breathing, emotion, and cognition involving the autonomic nervous system. Physiological evidence indicates that even a single breathing exercise significantly lowers blood pressure, increases heart rate variability (HRV) and oxygenation, improves lung function and improves cardiorespiratory fitness and respiratory muscle strength.

Daily 15-min breathing training for 2 weeks significantly increased mean forced expiratory volume in 1 s and maximal expiratory flow rate. Breathing at a specific frequency and amplitude has been found to alleviate clinical symptoms in patients of all ages with sleep-disordered breathing. Evidence from yoga practice also confirms a decrease in sympathetic nervous system activity and an increase in parasympathetic nervous system activity. The vagal tone of the heart is thought to be part of the common physiological basis of respiration and emotion. It is influenced by breathing and is also integral to vagal nerve stimulation, which is closely related to the physiological basis of emotion, including emotional regulation, psychological adjustment, emotional reactivity and expression, empathic responses, and bonding. In addition, autonomic nervous system dysfunction has been reported in adults with anxiety depression, panic disorder and other stress-related mental and physical disorders. The common physiological basis of attention and respiration can be demonstrated in part in the autonomic nervous system of patients with ADHD but further evidence is provided by electroencephalographic (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies.

For example, EEG studies have found that regular breathing exercises during yoga and meditation can increase β-activity in the left frontal, middle, and occipital brain regions, which has been associated with improved cognitive performance, e.g., attention, memory, and executive functions. In addition, fMRI studies have found a significant increase in activation in bilateral inferior frontal and temporal regions during meditation compared to a relaxation phase. These studies identified the right inferior frontal cortex/right insula and the right middle/superior temporal cortex as the regions involved in meditation, a steroid hormone in the glucocorticoid class, is released in response to stress. The release of cortisol is associated with depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions. The underlying mechanism may be due to the sensitivity of the hormone to the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which regulates metabolism, immunity, and some mental processes, including memories and emotional appraisals. Plasma cortisol levels reflect changes in HPA axis activation in response to changes in CO2 inhalation whereas salivary cortisol levels have been linked to rapid withdrawal of attention in response to angry faces. However, the relationships between breathing, emotion, attention, and cortisol have not been tested together. Although breathing exercises offer holistic benefits for mental and physical health, the results of studies on this topic are inconsistent due to methodological limitations in experimental design, a lack of measurable breathing feedback, and limited sample sizes. Most cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have focused on how respiratory therapy benefits individuals with specific conditions, such as women during pregnancy and employees suffering from burnout rather than its health-promoting role in a healthy population.

Most importantly, most studies have examined physiological, emotional, and cognitive effects separately, which prevents an understanding of the possible mental and physiological mechanisms of breathing in terms of its potential benefits to mental and physical health. The present study was a pilot study RCT with visible feedback breath recordings used to monitor overall breathing performance and assess the outcomes of breathing exercises. The objectives of this study were to examine mental benefits and hormone levels in healthy volunteers who completed 8 weeks of breathing training. An emotional self-report scale and cognitive tests were used to measure mental benefits. In addition, cortisol, a major stress hormone related to the human HPA axis is investigated whether breathing training could be a buffer for modulating stress levels in the working population. 8 weeks of breathing training would significantly improve cognitive performance and reduce negative affect (NA) and physiological stress.

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How To Master Emotional Intelligence Chapter 9 – How To Cultivate Positive Emotions

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