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In yoga, the instructor mentioned that controlled deep breathing can increase self-confidence. (Next time, I will ask him why he believes that but I doubt he has any references...)

Furthermore, there are certain times when I do notice increased levels of self confidence after controlled deep breathing.

Note: This is different than using deep breathing to prevent or calm down from a panic or anxiety attack.

The scope of the question is focused on a natural baseline level of confidence, increased via controlled deep breathing.

Some reference in general turned up as well:

For example, controlled breathing can be used to increase self-confidence,...
http://www.khyf.net/khyf/articleview.aspx?spage=A&DParticleid=44&icategorylist=

Are there any studies that prove this and if so, why? Any point in the right direction is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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2 Answers 2

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I am not aware of any neuroscience papers that link breathing and self-confidence. One review that touched on breathing in yoga was Jerath et al. (2006). They discuss how deep breathing increases parasympathetic autonomic activity. This can change the physiological state of the body, leading to changes in affective state.

One area of the brain that may be relevant is a patch of cortex called the insula. The posterior insula receives afferent information from the body and creates the initial sensory representation of body state (Craig, 2000). From there, the mid insula begins to integrate body state with other sensory modalities, such as visual and auditory information. This progression continues, until you have a highly integrated, abstract representation of interoceptive and emotional state in the anterior insula (Craig, 2009).

Activity in the anterior insula has been related to a wide array of higher cognitive functions, including self-recognition, emotional awareness, risk prediction, conscious awareness of sensory stimuli, temporal perception, attention, perceptual decision making, performance monitoring, and more. We know that relaxation techniques can influence activity in this area of the insula (Critchley et al., 2002).

It is well supported that controlled breathing changes the state of your body and activity in the brain, including the insula. These changes can also directly influence our cognitive state and cognitive ability. Changes in self-confidence may be a part of that, depending on how you might define self-confidence.

  • Craig AD, Chen K, Bandy D, Reiman EM. (2000) Thermosensory activation of insular cortex. Nature Neuroscience. 3, 184-190. PMID: 10649575.

  • Craig AD. (2009). How do you feel-now? The anterior insula and human awareness. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 10(1), 59-70.

  • Critchley HD, Melmed RN, Featherstone E, Mathias CJ, and Dolan RJ. (2002). Volitional control of autonomic arousal: a functional magnetic resonance study. NeuroImage. 16(4), 909-919. PMID: 12202079.

  • Jerath R, Edry JW, Barnes VA, and Jerath V. (2006). Physiology of long pranayamic breathing: Neural respiratory elements may provide a mechanism that explains how slow deep breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system. Medical Hypotheses. 67, 566-571. PMID: 16624497.

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Great answer, thanks for contributing your expertise! –  Chuck Sherrington Jun 12 '13 at 23:20
    
@CraigBennett: great info, very valuable, thank you. –  Greg McNulty Jun 13 '13 at 0:52

Deep breathing changes your posture. People with an upright, confident posture do feel higher levels of confidence.

Side note: It's okay to sulk after defeat. Research also shows that people who slump down after defeat recover from negative feelings quicker than people who try to remain upright.

But yes, adopting a more confident posture in general will make you a more confident person.

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