A few years ago I was single but not getting laid as much as a single guy in his 20s should. Occasionally, when going about my day, I would lock eyes with some beautiful female stranger, get my heart’s feelings all pumped up, and—shy away from hitting on her.
It’s not that I couldn’t talk to strangers of whatever gender, but cold-approaching stunning girls with the intention to overtly, yet tactfully communicate my sexual interest right from the start was a whole different story, especially when I was alone lacking social momentum.
I knew this was only a matter of insufficient experience. Just as in any novel social situation, gaining the experience required courage. I tried to kick-start the power of my balls by using all types of mindset tricks and positive thinking habits, adopting power postures, and putting myself in a social state wherever possible. It’s not that these techniques were useless but it was in breathing that I found the true power of my will.
For example, I wanted to stop watching porn. Yet whenever a random online picture of some tight, sexy ass triggered my interest, an automated process kicked in: one hand down the pants, the other on the keyboard to frantically load my go-to porn site… not this again!
Once more, breathing was the solution. I found that mindfully modulating my breathing rate empowered me to keep my dick in check. What a liberating feeling! Regulating my breath gave me the freedom to act out my good desires, and the strength to resist bad ones.
Could mindfulness itself have done the trick? Maybe. In my experience, however, it’s more effective to actively do something that involves manipulating my body.
When a man jerks off, there’s a certain physiological pattern associated with it. Mindfulness meditation might not suffice to replace that pattern. Mindful breath-regulation, on the other hand, does—because it’s associated with a sturdy physiological pattern itself.
Ever since my discovery, I’ve used breathing rate manipulation in various situations: when giving important presentations as well as before job interviews, my first bungee jump, and MMA sparring sessions (especially when I have good reasons to assume that I won’t slip through all the chokes and punches to the head).
Inspired by these tremendous effects of respiratory regulation on willpower, which I experienced on a daily basis, as well as by Kelly McGonigal’s book on The Willpower Instinct, I decided to experimentally investigate this relationship.
“How does breathing affect willpower?” was my research question that soon turned into Effects of Paced Respiration on Attentional Impulse Control as the title of my thesis. Less catchy but that’s how we roll in academia. Anyways, I chose this title to reveal a crucial aspect of my study, namely, that my human guinea pigs’s willpower was assessed in terms of how well they could control their attention.
The experiment was simple. Two screens were placed in front of the subject. One showed exciting video clips, while the other displayed a boring screensaver. Subjects were instructed to look at the latter without getting distracted by the former screen. The more they got distracted, the less willpower they had. One group of subjects performed a slow breathing exercise before the distraction task, the other group took rapid breaths.
The results: Fast-breathing participants got distracted more often and longer as compared to slow-breathing participants who had more willpower to resist the distraction.
Watch this video for a more comprehensive depiction of my study:
If you’re interested in the actual science, feel free to check out my official thesis.
As you’re assuming correctly, slowing down your breathing rate is beneficial in situations where you have to keep your cool. On the other hand, if a situation demands a more energized out-of-your-mind state, like during passionate sex or right before a final deadlift set, you might rather want to increase your breathing frequency to provoke your berserker instincts and animalistic power.
Try one of these two breathing exercises
- slow: 4 seconds inhalation, 4 seconds pause, 8 second exhalation — repeat 6 times
- fast: 2 seconds inhalation, 2 seconds exhalation — repeat 24 times
under various circumstances (whichever you find more appropriate to the situation). Adjust them according to your own experience. Be creative with it! The more you experiment, the more you’ll learn to control the powers of your mind, will, and raw nature.
Any time something’s about to go to shit—in the face of temptation, anxiety, or stress—or you simply want to gain even greater power in an already awesome situation, give it a try and mindfully modulate your breathing rate. It has worked wonders for me, may it work wonders for you too!