Movement-based strategies for emotion regulation

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The present chapter reviews various techniques for emotion regulation using voluntary changes in motor behavior. Emotion regulation is defined as a person's active attempt to manage his emotional state by enhancing or decreasing specific feelings, or by reducing stress, anxiety or depression. According to Damasio's somatic marker hypothesis, emotions are generated by conveying the current state of the body to the brain through interoceptive and proprioceptive afferent input. The resulting brain activation patterns represent unconscious emotions and correlate with subjective feelings. This proposition implies a corollary, that through deliberate control of motor behavior and its consequent proprioception and interoception, one could regulate his feelings. Thus, one of the strategies to achieve emotion regulation could be through voluntary changes to one's posture and movements. Different types of motor-behavior modifications contribute to emotion regulation based on different underlying mechanisms. Quantitative changes in motor behavior, i.e., increased movement intensity for a period of time, such as during aerobic exercise, produce metabolic processes, which generate a myriad of physiological changes (e.g., alterations in the levels of hormones, neurotransmitters, trophic factors, endocannabinoids and immune system function) that contribute to the reduction of stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that qualitative modifications of motor behavior such as engaging in specific facial expressions, postures and whole body movements which are associated with specific emotions, probably use a different mechanism to enhance the corresponding affect: a mechanism that is based on afferent (proprioceptive) input to the brain regarding the current state of the body's muscle activation pattern and joint configuration. Two other movement-based strategies for emotion regulation are progressive muscle relaxation, which reduces stress, and utilizing specific breathing patterns, which are capable of reducing stress and inducing differentiated emotional states.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Emotion Regulation
Subtitle of host publicationProcesses, Cognitive Effects and Social Consequences
PublisherNova Science Publishers, Inc.
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781634823784
ISBN (Print)9781634823616
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • General Medicine


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