Study Shows How To Breathe Yourself Happy

Controlling stress and emotions is one of the hardest challenges for acne patients. It’s not like someone checks with you whether you want to get stressed or whether you want to have a bout of depression with your ice cream. Stress and emotional responses are largely involuntary, and damage control after the fact is often the best you can do, that is, if you remember to do it. Practices like meditation can, over long term, change your habitual reactions, but this takes a lot of time and effort.

Fortunately, a study titled Respiratory feedback in the generation of emotion offers new hope. It showed that different emotions are associated with different breathing patterns. The study found that people breathe differently when they are angry to when they are happy, and that if you match your breathing pattern to the one associated with happiness, you start to feel happier.

I’ve written earlier how your emotions respond to what your body does, for example forcing yourself to smile makes you feel happier. Breathing is another one of these feedback loops between the mind and the body, technically known as peripheral feedback.

Change your breathing, change your emotions

The study was done in two parts. In the first part the participants were asked to generate few specific emotions (joy, anger, fear, and sadness) by changing their breathing patterns and recalling memories that trigger those emotions. Afterwards they were asked to fill a questionnaire that queried attributes of breathing (depth, frequency, regularity, etc).

The breathing pattern associated with each emotion was remarkably consistent across all the participants. Furthermore, these patterns were consistent with the patterns observed in other studies where emotions were elicited with movies. This suggests there’s ‘a signature breathing pattern’ associated with each emotion.

In the second part of the study the researchers wanted to see if changing breathing patterns also changes emotional state. And indeed it does. A second group of participants was asked to modify their breathing patterns based on the findings from the first part of the study.  So every participant was asked to do happiness breathing, anger breathing, etc. They were then asked to fill a questionnaire to elicit their emotional state.

The researchers found that each breathing pattern reliably shifted emotions towards the emotion associated with the pattern. So happiness breathing made people happier and anger breathing made them feel angrier.

Signature breathing patterns

Here are the breathing patterns used in the second part, so you can try this at home:

  • Joy: “Breathe and exhale slowly and deeply through the nose; your breathing is very regular and your ribcage relaxed.”
  • Anger: “Breathe and exhale quickly through the nose; slightly deeper than regular breathing amplitude. Your breathing is slightly irregular with some tremors and your ribcage is very tense.”
  • Fear: “Breathe and exhale quickly from the top of your ribcage; with normal amplitude. Your breathing is slightly irregular with some tremors and your ribcage very tense.”
  • Sadness: “Breathe and exhale through the nose with a normal amplitude and pace. Your ribcage is slightly tense, and there are some sighs in your expiration.”

I would add to the list the laughter pattern. Breathe in fairly deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth in small ‘bursts’, like what happens when you laugh (ha, ha, ha, ha…).

Gives you control over your emotions

I’m the first one to admit that breathing alone won’t cause massive shifts in your emotional state. So don’t expect to be flooded with ecstatic joy if you try the ‘joy pattern’. But it starts shifting your emotional state, and this breaks the hold stress or negative emotion may have on you. Most importantly, this should work reliably and consistently and thus give you some measure of control over your emotional state.

If you practice and turn this into a daily habit, I’m sure this could help your skin a lot. Stress is one of the things that can aggravate acne. Stress, depression and anxiety all release a neurotransmitter known as substance P. While there are no human studies on acne, one study showed that injecting substance P into the skin triggered a psoriatic flare – even in people not prone to getting psoriasis. Cell culture studies have also shown that skin cells respond to substance P by producing more sebum.

In conclusion, there is some truth to the time-worn advice to take a deep breath. It turns out that we breathe and do different things with our bodies when we experience different emotions. You can get more control over your emotions by taking advantage of these feedback loops between the mind and the body.

Finally, did you try these techniques? How did they work for you? Do you know any other ways to keep control of your emotions? Please share in the comments below.

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About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.

8 thoughts on “Study Shows How To Breathe Yourself Happy

  1. Hi,
    what do you think about melatonin-supplement? Can it cause clogged pores? I really think that it helps me too get sleep. I suffer insomnia quite often. I read somewhere that it has been shown to have profound effects on the IGF-1 axis…

    • I can’t say for sure as I haven’t looked into this in detail. A quick search at PubMed uncovered this study. In that study melatonin supplementation had no effect on IGF-1 level. The only other studies I found were very preliminary at best. Some study showed that melatonin may have some effect on IGF-1 receptors in rat liver cells, but it’s impossible to say what that means (if anything). I also found one study that showed melatonin supplementation before resistance training may increase growth hormone level (but no effect on IGF-1). Google didn’t bring up anything better.

      As far as I can tell, melatonin has no effect on IGF-1 level, but, again, I’m not familiar with this subject. Take it for what it’s worth.

  2. I really appreciate job you are doing. Actually I dont know the difference between igf-1 and growht hormone. I have always taught that both of them are bad for your skin. If something is raising your igf-1 levels does it automatically means that it is bad for your skin? Does this research means that even a small dosage of glutamine (5g) after workout is bad for your skin:
    https://propanefitness.com/glutamine-makes-a-comeback-7-reasons-l-glutamine-is-better-than-you-think/

    Im exercising alot and I m trying to find products that keep igf-1 levels down but almost every of them does the opposite. Right no I have a huge stress in my life and I m trying to keep my cortisol levels down and so on. Cortisol cant be good for you skin or could it?

    • Both are growth hormones and both can affect sebum production and skin cell growth – and thus make it more likely for you to get acne.

      But I wouldn’t say that anything that increases IGF-1 and GH levels are automatically bad for your skin. It’s not helpful to simplify things that much.

      Most of the workout supplements cause only transient increases in blood levels of hormones. Nobody knows whether such short-lived increases have any effect on acne – I doubt they have.

      If you want my honest advice, you are probably stressing about this way too much. My advice would be to stop reading scientifically-looking blogs that talk about bodybuilding supplements. I don’t mean this badly, but you don’t seem to have the background knowledge to put those findings into proper perspective – and perhaps that’s causing a lot of stress and worry to you.

      If you want to improve your skin, you’ll probably get much better results by focusing on stress reduction.

    • Sorry but that article is just pure nonsense. It makes claims based on ridiculously preliminary research. I looked at some of the studies in the references section and they are almost all animal studies that used extremely high doses of melatonin. It’s ridiculous to claim that the same thing would happen in humans and with much, much, much smaller doses. Either the person who wrote that doesn’t know what he’s doing or he’s just exploiting the fact that most people will never check his sources.

  3. I can really agree with you. If you let me ask one more question then I leave you alone 😀

    What do you think, are quinoa and buckwheat OK for people with acne? Yes, those include alot carbs but if eaten with sense? I have read that quinoa raises igf-1 even that it has quite low glycemic index because it includes all the essential amino acids. And buckwheat is said to block estrogen. Are these OK anyway, or is either one better choice?

    • I really don’t mind answering questions. The problem, I think, is that with every new bit of information you ‘learn’ the more confused you get.

      Buckwheat and quinoa are probably ok for acne patients. Buckwheat may have gluten (don’t remember now if it has), so that’s a potential problem, but other than that they should be fine.

      I don’t think that just because a food item contains all the essential amino acids that it increases IGF-1 level. Meat has all the essential amino acids and it doesn’t increase IGF-1 level.

      As to buckwheat blocking estrogen, I don’t know where you got that. Many grains and plant foods have substances that mimic estrogen in the body, soy and flaxseeds have a lot of them. But their hormonal effect is very weak at best. These phytoestrogens are much weaker than real hormones and they are quite short-lived. So they are not something I would worry about.

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