Deep Breathing is the Ultimate Relaxation

A relaxed man breathing smoke

In my last article, I made the case that deep breathing is the ultimate self-control. An individual can breathe no more deeply than their emotional baggage will allow. In this article, I want to expand on the related theme of relaxation. Relaxation is another way of talking about the effects of self-control in the mind. As a result, it is intimately linked with deep breathing. There is a positive correlation such that more relaxation is synonymous with deeper breathing.

A lot of people think of relaxation as a luxury. It’s preferable because it feels good, but it’s not necessary to reaching one’s full potential. They think that relaxation may even be a hindrance because it can lead to complacency. There’s no doubt that indulgence in comfort can be an obstacle to progress, but that’s not what we mean by relaxation. Indulgence in comfort involves temporary activities, like sitting on the couch and watching TV, but what I’m talking about is a an attitude or disposition—call it a state of mind. A state of mind that is internally rather than externally driven. Relaxation as a state of mind can be experienced during any activity, including ones that are highly productive. It is during highly productive activities that the concept of relaxation is most relevant since they are the ones that tend to generate the most stress. Rather than being a hindrance to productivity, relaxation actually promotes it. Relaxed minds are the most agile. They are the most intelligent, creative, and problem-solving. Every school teacher knows it. And the good ones go out of their way to foster a relaxed environment conducive to high performance.

Relaxation as a state of mind can be experienced during any activity, including ones that are highly productive.

Relaxation cannot take place in the absence of self-control. In order to be relaxed, an individual must be in control of their emotions. Emotions that work against relaxation, with the exception of excitement, are all negative emotions. In the absence of negative emotion an individual spends the vast majority of life in a relaxed state. In short, emotional management (i.e. self-control) lies at the heart of relaxation. People chronically unable to control their emotions often fail to relax despite their best efforts. The ability to relax is the product not of momentary effort but of overall emotional health.

Anger is the negative emotion that plagues humanity more than any other. People tend to get angry when things don’t go their way, and that happens quite often in a world as imperfect as ours. People who get angry easily are constantly upsetting their internal balance. So, too, are people who carry bitterness and resentments from the past. Even fear and sadness make people angry for the sheer fact of having to experience them. Unresolved emotional issues heighten the breath and prevent oxygen from reaching its natural depth–let alone the chronic health problems they can create and exacerbate. This site has a plethora of resources on emotional management since it is so vital to living well. See the fitness, fasting, meditation, and wisdom categories. And see my other article on deep breathing as a technique in and of itself for better emotional health. I present this material not as someone who has already achieved self-mastery but as someone who is striving toward it alongside others. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that all emotional healing starts with an honest assessment of the situation. And in the case of relaxation, emotions are the be-all and the end-all. Any individual who wants to live a more relaxed life should focus on emotional management, especially anger management.

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

Proverbs 16:32


Indulgence in pleasurable activities can provide temporary relaxation, but true relaxation is a general attitude toward life whose benefits are experienced by the individual 24/7. Relaxed people interface with the external world from an internal place of calm. While disturbances to internal balance are unavoidable, relaxed people experience them less frequently, less intensely, and for a shorter duration of time than their non-relaxed counterparts. Relaxation promotes deep breathing. And self-control is the only way to achieve it.

Is the relationship now clear between self-control on one hand, and relaxation and deep breathing on the other? Give me your feedback in the comments.


  1. […] Deep breathing is evidence of emotional self-control, but it can also be utilized as a technique to increase it. Deep breathing is practiced by Navy SEALS, veterans, and meditators around the world to foster calm and control in every situation. It’s design is to promote the natural deep breathing characteristic of a mind at ease. There are a number of exercises that involve holding the breath and counting at different intervals. You can find these on Google or YouTube. What works best for me is simply reminding myself to breathe deeply throughout the day. The only thing required to breathe deeply is conscious awareness. It works when an individual experiencing a harmful emotional impulse, like anger, decides instead to stand their ground by breathing deeply in the impulse. If the individual is successful, they remain in control and the impulse calmly passes by. It is important to keep in mind that it is not the breath itself that resolves the impulse, it is the individual’s determination not to let the impulse take control of their being. Deep breathing fosters this determination by serving as a conscious reminder to stay grounded and by subconsciously communicating that the impulse is not worth getting worked up about. […]

  2. […] Visualization is the Swiss-army knife of the self-help industry. Performers use it to hone their craft. Trauma victims use it to heal. And people interested in becoming the best version of themselves use it to gain social confidence, change deep-seated beliefs, and improve health outcomes. Guided visualizations help stoke the creative power inherent to this process. This particular guided visualization focuses on freedom from stress featuring themes of oxygen, deep breathing, and detachment. Shallow breathing is one the first physical manifestations of stress. And deep, mindful breathing is one of the quickest ways to reverse it. […]

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