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Feeling angry? Venting won’t make you feel better, but this will.

When most people get angry they feel the only cure for the intense emotion is to blow off some steam. That could mean venting by yelling and screaming at the source of their anger, speeding down the freeway or punching a wall.

However, new research shows that this type of destructive behavior only intensifies the feeling.

“I think it’s really important to bust the myth that if you’re angry you should blow off steam – get it off your chest,” said senior author Brad Bushman, professor of communication at The Ohio State University. “Venting anger might sound like a good idea, but there’s not a shred of scientific evidence to support catharsis theory.”

Catharsis theory is the idea that by venting one’s anger people will eventually arrive at a relaxed, anger-free state.

To determine if venting is effective at reducing anger and, if not, find effective ways for people to reduce their rage, researchers at The Ohio State University analyzed 154 studies on anger. The meta-analysis found little evidence that venting helps and that in many cases, it increases people’s arousal levels and makes the episode last longer.

So, the guy who screams in his car after someone cuts him off in traffic is essentially only harming himself by intensifying his state of hyperarousal. Or the woman who wants to give the waiter a “piece of her mind” after waiting too long for the check should realize that she’s only making herself more upset.

“To reduce anger, it is better to engage in activities that decrease arousal levels,” Bushman said. “Despite what popular wisdom may suggest, even going for a run is not an effective strategy because it increases arousal levels and ends up being counterproductive.”

“I wanted to debunk the whole theory of expressing anger as a way of coping with it,” study’s first author Sophie Kjærvik said. “We wanted to show that reducing arousal, and actually the physiological aspect of it, is really important.”

The researchers found that arousal-decreasing activities are effective at lowering anger included deep breathing, relaxation, mindfulness, meditation, slow flow yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmic breathing and taking a timeout.

“It was really interesting to see that progressive muscle relaxation and just relaxation in general might be as effective as approaches such as mindfulness and meditation,” Kjærvik continued. “And yoga, which can be more arousing than meditation and mindfulness, is still a way of calming and focusing on your breath that has the similar effect in reducing anger.

The study found that if you’re angry, some forms of physical activity can be helpful while others may prolong the episode. Jogging was found to intensify feelings of anger; however, physical education classes and games involving a ball were found to decrease it. Feelings have two componments, physical and mental, so it’s believed that physical activity with a sense of play involved, may increase positive emotions and diminish feelings of anger.

“Certain physical activities that increase arousal may be good for your heart, but they’re definitely not the best way to reduce anger,” Bushman said. “It’s really a battle because angry people want to vent, but our research shows that any good feeling we get from venting actually reinforces aggression.”

Source: Upworthy
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