From Breathwork to Gratitude: try these Emotional Regulation Activities

Published on
September 6, 2023

What are Emotional Regulation Activities?

Emotional regulation is the process of recognizing, understanding, and managing one's emotions effectively. It is an essential skill that helps us navigate life's challenges and build healthy relationships. Emotions are a natural and important part of human experience, but due to societal standards, family dynamics, and personal experiences, most of us have learned to suppress our emotions and hide how we’re truly feeling.

Children are born with the capacity to express their emotions openly and freely, and oftentimes have very big emotions and need support as they explore their emotions and learn how to navigate them. If parents or caregivers do not validate a child's emotions or respond in a negative or dismissive manner, the child may learn to suppress their emotions to avoid further negative responses. Children may also learn to suppress their emotions if they feel that expressing themselves would cause tension or conflict within the family. Another reason children learn to suppress their emotions is that many cultures have implicit rules around emotional expression. For example, in some cultures, expressing sadness or anger may be seen as a sign of weakness or may be frowned upon. As a result, children in these cultures may learn to suppress these emotions to fit in and avoid negative judgment from others.

Personal experiences also contribute to the development of emotional suppression. For example, if a child experiences repeated rejection or trauma, they may learn to suppress their emotions as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from further emotional harm.

Emotional Regulation Activities Support Us In Reclaiming Our Physical and Mental Health

Emotional suppression can have life-long negative consequences for a person’s emotional and psychological well-being. When children suppress their emotions, they may struggle to understand and regulate their emotions, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. It can also impact their social relationships, making it difficult for them to form close connections with others. The ways we deal with our emotions as children and the resulting consequences continue into our adulthood, affecting the quality of our health, life, and relationships, until we decide to learn new ways of connecting with our emotions.

One way to connect with our emotions is through Introspective Breathwork™.

There are many ways in which breathwork serves as an emotional regulation activity, and there are specific breathing techniques that can be used to improve physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Breathwork is an ancient practice that has been used for centuries to improve health, calm the mind and promote relaxation.

The Importance of Emotional Regulation

Emotions are a natural part of human experience, but they can sometimes be overwhelming and challenging to manage. Emotional regulation is the process of managing our emotions effectively for optimal mental and physical well-being, as well as building healthy relationships.

When we are unable to regulate our emotions, we may experience a range of issues, such as anxiety, depression, substance abuse/addiction, and difficulty in relationships. Emotional regulation helps us cope with stress, communicate effectively, integrate past adverse experiences, and make better decisions for ourselves.

Emotional regulation activities can help us develop the skills we need in order to (1) feel ‘more’ and learn to identify what we feel, and (2) manage and express our emotions more effectively.

Some emotional regulation activities include mindfulness practices, journaling, exercise, and breathwork.

Introspective Breathwork™ and Emotional Regulation

Breathwork gets to the root of your problems in a way that nothing else can. Because breathwork gets to the root of your problems, your life gets better.  You find it easier to let go of your bad habits, and to create the new ones you’ve struggled with sticking to in the past.

Breathwork helps you feel more connected (to yourself and others), see things from a new perspective, feel happier and more self-loving.

Introspective Breathwork™ also helps people connect with their emotions and process them in a healthy way. When people are able to breathe deeply and connect with their bodies, they become more aware of their emotions. This awareness allows them to process their emotions in a healthy way and regulate their responses to them.

Breathwork is an embodied practice and a spiritual practice. In order to reach self-actualization, we have to reconnect with and integrate all aspects of ourselves—physical, mental, energetic, and spiritual. Introspective Breathwork™ provides a framework for this process, which involves healing and transmuting past experiences so that we can embody our truest self. From an embodied, grounded place we can realize our full potential.

A big part of our mission at One Breath Institute is to help you to accept, trust and love yourself–so you feel empowered to be yourself and live authentically, which includes feeling all your feelings.  You are always welcome and encouraged to show up exactly as you are--no need to hide or change anything about yourself.

Other Emotional Regulation Activities

In addition to breathwork, there are many other emotional regulation activities that people can use to manage their emotions effectively. These activities include:

  1. Mindfulness practices: Mindfulness practices involve paying attention to the present moment without making judgements or placing blame. This can include meditation, yoga, or simply taking a few deep breaths.
  2. Journaling: Writing down our thoughts and feelings can help us identify and process our emotions and gain new perspectives.
  3. Exercise: Exercise releases endorphins, which improve our mood and reduce stress.
  4. Creative activities: Creative activities, such as art or music, can be therapeutic and help us process our emotions.
  5. Social support: Having supportive friends and family members can help us feel less alone in our struggles. Like-minded community spaces can provide a safe space for us to share our emotions.
  6. Gratitude practice: Focusing on gratitude can help shift the focus away from negative emotions and improve mood.

Gratitude practice is a form of emotional regulation activity that involves focusing on the positive aspects of life and expressing appreciation for them. Developing a gratitude practice is an effective way to regulate our emotions, as it can shift our attention away from negative thoughts and towards identifying positive experiences and emotions.

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can have a wide range of benefits for mental health and well-being. For example, studies have found that people who regularly practice gratitude tend to experience more positive emotions, have better quality of sleep, and are more resilient to stress. Practicing gratitude has also been shown to improve relationships, increase feelings of social support, and even improve physical health outcomes.

One of the ways a gratitude practice functions as an emotional regulation activity is by activating the brain's reward center. When people engage in a gratitude practice, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward. This can help to counteract negative emotions and improve our mood.

A gratitude practice can also help to reframe our negative experiences in a more positive light. By focusing on the positive aspects of life, we shift our perspective and can develop a more optimistic and positive outlook, which in turn helps to reduce anxiety and improve emotional resilience.

To develop gratitude practice, we can use a variety of techniques, such as keeping a gratitude journal, expressing gratitude in social interactions, or using gratitude affirmations. For example, we may choose to write down three things we are grateful for each day, reflect on positive experiences we had each day, or express gratitude to others for their support.

Overall, gratitude practice is a powerful emotional regulation activity. By focusing on the positive aspects of life and expressing appreciation for them, people can counteract negative emotions and improve their overall emotional regulation skills.

Introspective Breathwork™ includes and encourages all of the emotional regulation activities listed within this article. We take a multifaceted approach to healing, as we humans are complex multi-dimensional beings.  Different practices are more appealing and will be more effective to us at different stages of our journey.  The journey to becoming a more embodied, happier person includes developing the capacity to feel, accept, experience and express (in healthy ways) ALL our emotions–including the ones we suppressed earlier in life.

It can take time and practice to connect with our inner feelings and begin to identify them, especially if we are emotionally numb. Once we do begin to feel some of our bigger emotions, it can feel scary. Sometimes even the idea of connecting with our emotions can become scary, because we may not know what is lying dormant within the body.

Anger, in particular, is an emotion that people tend to worry will overcome them. In society, there are often mixed messages and societal norms surrounding the expression of anger, and some people may be afraid to connect with feelings of anger due to a lack of healthy expressions of anger in our society.

However, anger is a natural and valid emotion that serves an important purpose. It can signal that a person's boundaries have been violated, their needs are not being met, or they feel injustice or frustration. However, anger is often stigmatized and associated with aggression or harm, which can create fear and hesitation in expressing or acknowledging this emotion.

Societal expectations and cultural norms play a significant role in shaping how people perceive and express anger. In some societies, there may be pressure to suppress or deny anger altogether, as it is seen as inappropriate or disruptive. This can lead to individuals internalizing their anger and avoiding acknowledging or addressing it.

Additionally, unhealthy expressions of anger that involve aggression, violence, or harm can contribute to the fear of connecting with this emotion. If someone has experienced or witnessed aggressive or destructive anger in their environment, they may develop a fear of their own anger or view it as dangerous. This fear can manifest as a reluctance to explore or express anger in healthy ways.

The lack of healthy models for expressing anger in society can further perpetuate this fear. When individuals observe or experience anger being expressed in unhealthy ways, such as through yelling, physical violence, or excessive aggression, they may internalize the belief that anger itself is destructive or harmful. This can lead to a fear of exploring or expressing anger and a subsequent avoidance of this emotion.

However, it is important to recognize that suppressing or denying anger can have negative consequences. Unaddressed anger can build up over time and contribute to chronic stress, resentment, and even physical health issues. It is crucial to develop healthy strategies for understanding, expressing, and processing anger.

Creating safe spaces for the expression of anger and promoting healthy anger management strategies can help individuals overcome their fear and connect with this emotion in a constructive way. Recognizing the importance of anger as a valid emotion and promoting healthy strategies for its expression and management can help individuals overcome this fear and develop a healthier relationship with anger.

Emotional regulation activities can help us connect with and explore all our feelings, including anger, and learn new and healthier ways to express ourselves. Emotional regulation is an essential skill for navigating life's challenges and creating the healthy relationships, and the life, we desire. By incorporating these activities into our daily routine, we can develop the skills to manage our emotions more effectively and improve our quality of life. If you are interested in learning more about breathwork, check out this article.

This article was all about "From Breathwork to Gratitude: try these Emotional Regulation Activities"

by Lisa McNett

Experience our empowering Breathwork Sessions for free, every Sunday

Start your journey towards becoming who you were meant to be with a free Introspective Breathwork™ Session, held every Sunday at 11am EST.

One Breath Institute logo