Sometimes when I have negative feelings, it seems that a deep breath resets these feelings. Does that really happen? Is there any research on the effect of taking a deep breath on reducing the experience of negative emotions?

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    $\begingroup$ Its a ritual and a coping mech. yeah its psychologically identified. $\endgroup$ – user3832 Mar 18 '14 at 7:53
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    $\begingroup$ if those kinds of breathing techniques help you would prolly respond well to mediation as well. you can do a non-religious form which will increase mindfulness $\endgroup$ – user3832 Mar 18 '14 at 8:13
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    $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness_(psychology) $\endgroup$ – user3832 Mar 18 '14 at 8:16

Yup; basically, it works. Varvogli and Darviri (2011) review research on diaphragmatic breathing, reporting:

Deep breathing has been successfully used to decrease the fatigue associated with haemopoietic stem cell transplantation patients 55, to reduce the anxiety and asthma signs/symptoms of children with asthma 56, in the management of acute stressful tasks 57 showing that the slow-breathing technique can have a significant effect on improvement of the hemodynamic changes following the acute stressful tasks. Furthermore, it has been used to influence autonomic functions in patients with essential hypertension and thus reduce it 58–59, in the management of male adolescent aggressive behaviour 60, in long term prophylaxis of migraine 61, in stress related to dental visits 62.

Fatigue, anxiety, stress, and aggression are all negatively valent (see the diagram in this answer; aggression doesn't appear, but is a form of negative arousal). It wouldn't be surprising if effects on hypertension and migraine incidence are partially mediated by emotional changes either.

Varvogli, L., & Darviri, C. (2011). Stress management techniques: Evidence-based procedures that reduce stress and promote health. Health Science Journal, 5(2), 74–89. Retrieved from http://www.hsj.gr/volume5/issue2/521.pdf.

  • As cited within Varvogli & Darviri (2011):

    $55$. Sang-Dol, K., & Hee-Seung, K. (2005). Effects of a relaxation breathing exercise on fatigue in haemopoietic stem cell transplantation patients. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 14(1), 51–55.
    $56$. Chiang, L. C., Ma, W. F., Huang, J. L., Tseng, L. F., & Hsueh, K. C. (2009) Effect of relaxation-breathing training on anxiety and asthma signs/symptoms of children with moderate-to-severe asthma: A randomized controlled trial. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 46(8), 1061–1070. Retrieved from ResearchGate.
    $57$. Nogawa, M., Yamakoshi, T., Ikarashi, A., Tanaka, S., & Yamakoshi, K. (2007). Assessment of slow-breathing relaxation technique in acute stressful tasks using a multipurpose non-invasive beat-by-beat cardiovascular monitoring system. Conf Proc IEEE Eng Med Biol Soc, 5323–5325.
    $58$. Mourya, M., Mahajan, A. S., Singh, N. P., & Jain, A. K. (2009). Effect of slow- and fast-breathing exercises on autonomic functions in patients with essential hypertension. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(7), 711–717.
    $59$. Kaushik, R. M., Kaushik, R., Mahajan, S. K., & Rajesh, V. (2006). Effects of mental relaxation and slow breathing in essential hypertension. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 14(2), 120–126.
    $60$. Gaines, T., & Barry, L. M. (2008). The effect of a self-monitored relaxation breathing exercise on male adolescent aggressive behavior. Adolescence, 43(170), 291–302.
    $61$. Kaushik, R., Kaushik, R. M., Mahajan, S, K., & Rajesh, V. (2005). Biofeedback assisted diaphragmatic breathing and systematic relaxation versus propranolol in long term prophylaxis of migraine. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 13(3), 165–174.
    $62$. Biggs, Q. M., Kelly, K. S., & Toney J. D. (2003). The effects of deep diaphragmatic breathing and focused attention on dental anxiety in a private practice setting. Journal of Dental Hygiene, 77(2), 105–113.

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    $\begingroup$ Nick. You probably don't know but these answers full of references are breathtaking. I guess I'm in love with you. :3 $\endgroup$ – Red Banana Mar 20 '14 at 6:51
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    $\begingroup$ "Breathtaking" eh? I see what you did there! :D I'll have to check out your other questions and see if I can capitalize on your high regard for me ;) Don't give me too much credit on this one though! Varvogli & Darviri (2011) was one of the first Google hits for something like "deep breathing negative emotion research", and I really just copied and checked references from their article, since it happened to include a decent review already (the quoted section above). $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Mar 20 '14 at 15:30
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. But it would be kinda hard for me to search. I'm not from cognitive sciences, but I do have interest in some things. I believe that my vocabulary for searching it in my native languange is poor, but it should be much worse in english. Thanks anyway. :) $\endgroup$ – Red Banana Mar 21 '14 at 9:46
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, I wasn't suggesting that you should've found this stuff on your own, just that I didn't do anything too amazing for this answer :) But do give it a shot whenever you have a question! You'd be amazed at how easy it is to find useful research sometimes! Especially by searching with the word "research" ;) Feel free to ask me for help in choosing keywords too if you don't have full-fledged questions to ask here...and clearly no harm done in asking this one. It's pretty popular already! $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Mar 21 '14 at 17:34

Nick's answer is very thorough. I would add that the physiological symptoms of high-stress (muscle tightening, accelerated heartbeat, shallow quick breath) can be reversed by controlling breath voluntarily. So, when you change these physical conditions, emotional state often follows.


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