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Brain hacks: 5 Ways to master self-regulation

Brain hacks: 5 Ways to master self-regulation

Self-regulation helps in planning, choosing, avoiding impulsive steps, blocking unwanted thoughts and managing our behaviour around others

When life’s calm winds turn into storms, the human brain has the capacity to adjust its response. This brain flexibility gives us a hold over situations and how we react to them.

However, there are instances when we find ourselves unable to maintain control or self-regulate our emotions. Studies have shown that those of us who struggle with self-regulation of emotions could show low self-worth and confidence, leading to anxiousness and frustration.

Dr Manoj Pardhe, a consultant neurophysiologist based in Mumbai, says that a healthy and balanced brain and nervous system generates brain waves at optimum levels.

“These brain waves [alpha, beta, delta, gamma, and theta] consist of electrical signals transmitted between neurons that help in the exchange of [messages that translate to] actions, emotions, and thoughts,” he says.

Alpha waves are produced when the body is in a state of peace and calmness, like in meditation. High-frequency Beta waves can cause agitation and anxiety. Delta waves are prominent in sleep, helping repair the body and brain. Gamma waves are fast and predominant in collating information processes across different brain regions. Theta waves trigger the release of Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a neurochemical which calms the brain and reduces stress. GABA is a brain chemical that acts like a peacemaker of the brain, helping it relax.

Studies have found that reduced alpha waves and heightened beta waves are linked to feelings of anxiety, depression, and unease. Low levels of delta and theta waves can also contribute to these states. Anxiousness and panic feelings are not solely due to fear and insecurities; they can also result from chemical imbalances in the brain. Dr Pardhe explains that these conditions are influenced by a delicate balance of brain waves, where each type plays a role.


Read more – All you need to know about the EEG

The EEG, or the electroencephalograph, is one of the tools used to understand the electrical activity of the brain. It determines brain health by checking the brain waves and can detect seizures and encephalopathies.

Read more about how EEG is employed in neurofeedback therapy – a non-invasive therapeutic method to help people recover from traumatic brain injuries and neurological conditions — in our July issue of Happiest Health magazine


Self-regulation and control of our behaviour are essential, especially in stressful situations. Dr Pardhe says that “self-regulation helps in planning, choosing, avoiding impulsive steps, blocking unwanted thoughts and managing our behaviour around others.”

The listicle below offers five tips for self-regulation.

1. Every breath counts Breathe

When stressed or overwhelmed, try diaphragmatic breathing or belly breathing. The deep exhalation technique can instantly reduce stress. Paying attention to breathing distracts the mind, and longer exhalations signal the brain to switch from fight or flight mode to rest and digest mode. “Belly breathing can also increase alpha power and decrease theta brain waves in the brain,” says Dr Pardhe.

2. The nature connect


When anxious or worried, walk in open spaces and natural environments. “Walking in open spaces lowers heart rate, increases parasympathetic nerve activity, and lowers sympathetic nerve activity,” says Dr Pardhe.

Parasympathetic nerves relax or reduce the body’s activities, whereas sympathetic nerves trigger stress responses. Studies have also found that the activity of the amygdala, which is usually active during stress, is decreased while walking in natural environments.

Read more – Nurtured by nature- The biophilic brain
The science behind how we are interconnected with nature

3. The psychology of self-talk

When feeling insecure, rejected or unworthy, try positive self-talk. Self -affirmations activate brain systems associated with perception and reward. “When reward hormones in the brain increase, it stabilises the beta waves,” says Dr Pardhe.

4. Gazing out unlocks inner calm

When angry or distraught, look outside the window. Dilating or constricting pupils activates a brain chemical called norepinephrine or noradrenaline. Norepinephrine increases alertness, arousal and attention and constricts blood vessels, which helps maintain blood pressure in times of stress. “Norepinephrine also affects your sleep-wake cycle, mood and memory, thereby improving the alpha and theta wave activity,” says Dr Pardhe.

5. Revving up with fire breaths

When unmotivated, lethargic and procrastinating, take fire breaths. Tummo breathing or fire breaths involve passive inhalation and active exhalation that are quick and powerful. This helps in regulating  body temperature and improves cognition. It enhances the brain’s response to stimuli, increases alertness and reduces reaction times. Beta waves are associated with a state of attention and mental activity. “Regulating beta waves can improve cognitive performance and working memory,” says Dr Pardhe.

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