A Breathe of Happiness

As a designer and also a teacher, I’ve been continuously amazed by the beauty of young minds, their raw creativity, passions and enthusiasm every day. However, I am also been dismayed by another fact, I often see that the students are miserable. They are anxious, there’s so much stress around them.

There’s a misconception out there that in order to be successful we have to sacrifice or at least postpone our happiness. In particular, there’s this idea that you cannot have success without happiness. And you might probably agree with me that this idea is out there.

I’ve always been researching about ‘the science of happiness’, well- being, fulfilment and resilience. And more I dove into this subject, the more I see that we have all got it wrong. Well, we certainly cannot control the amount of stress and pressure that’s coming our way whether it’s professional or personal. There’s not much we can do about that. However, there’s one thing we can control and that is the state of our mind.

I’ve been teaching students from different backgrounds from quite a long time. I’ve seen many of them in a constant state of stress and panic, stress about performing well in the academia stress about their personal lives or even getting a job in this age of huge competition as if their stress response hasn’t been turned off. And as a consequence their performance level decrease. They don’t do well in their studies and their career gets heavily affected. This emotion of extreme distress is due to emotions and emotions are associated with breathing.

Breathing: it’s the only autonomic function that you can actually control. It’s not possible to control heart rate but your breathing is something you can control at your own volition. When you inhale, your heart rate increases. And when you exhale it decreases.

If you deepen your breath or slow it down or in particular if you lengthen your breath your heart rate and blood pressure decrease as well. And that’s how you tap into your Para-sympathetic nervous system which is the opposite of your fight and flight response, thus calming your whole system.

Another really interesting fact about breath is how closely it is linked with your emotions. You’ve probably noticed on days you’ve felt very anxious your breath might be very short and shallow, the same happens when you are very angry.

But if you look at someone who is really happy like little kids enjoying the rain or laughing, you can realize how deeply they are breathing. These are some very obvious ways in which our breath is linked to our emotions.

Pierre Philippot, a psychologist from the University of Louvain (Universite Catholique de Louvain) once conducted a study. In that study, he asked his participants to invoke certain emotions within themselves like sadness, happiness and so forth. And he studied how deeply they breathe; he looked at the length of their breath to determine whether there was a certain pattern of breathing that corresponded to the emotion.

And he found that there was a unique footprint to each one of the emotions in terms of breathing patterns. The more interesting part of the study, however, was the second part. In which he invited completely different people into the lab, and he only gave them the instructions to do the breathing that corresponded to the emotion.

So, the breathing patterns he has noticed in the first part of the study, he instructed the participants to do the same. And after that, he asked them, “How do you feel”? And he found that they started to feel the emotions that corresponded to the breathing pattern. And that was revolutionary.

We all have intense emotions and we all know how challenging this is to get ourselves out of those emotions. You can say things like… ‘Relax’ or ‘calm down’ but it gets very difficult to do so when the emotion is really intense.

The fact that we can use the breath to improve our mind means we have a tool at all times, no matter what we are facing. To calm ourselves don we just need to tap into it. It is one of the greatest secrets out there and I really hope you can apply it into your own life because it is an idea worth sharing.


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Lalit M. S. Adhikari

Lalit Adhikari is the main Author at Learn That Yourself. He has work experience in the field of Multimedia for more than 10 years and teaching experience of more than 5 years.

Articles: 103

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