Today’s Solutions: June 14, 2024

Finding the best way to handle anger can feel like traversing a maze. We’ve long believed in the cathartic value of venting, comparing it to releasing pressure from a boiling kettle. However, current evidence indicates otherwise.

Ohio State University did a comprehensive meta-analysis encompassing 154 research and over 10,000 people to investigate the usefulness of expressing anger. Contrary to popular opinion, they discovered little evidence supporting the notion that venting lessens anger. Instead, it frequently exacerbates the problem.

One of the study’s principal authors, communication scientist Brad Bushman, emphasized, “Venting anger might sound like a good idea, but there’s not a shred of scientific evidence to support catharsis theory.”

Venting vs. reflection: a critical difference

The distinction is in how we handle anger. While introspection can be helpful, venting frequently leads to rumination, which exacerbates unpleasant emotions. Communication scientist at Virginia Commonwealth University and another lead author of the study, Sophie Kjaervik, emphasizes the necessity of addressing the physiological aspects of rage. She goes on to say, “Reducing arousal, and actually the physiological aspect of it, is really important.”

The science of anger management

Drawing on the Schachter-Singer two-factor theory of emotion, the study examines rage as a two-part phenomenon with physiological and cognitive components. While cognitive therapies have traditionally been preferred, the study emphasizes the importance of treating physiological arousal in anger reduction.

Effective strategies for anger management

Slow-flow yoga, mindfulness, progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, and taking a pause are among the arousal-reducing activities identified in the study as useful for mitigating anger. These proven stress-reduction techniques provide a comprehensive approach to anger management.

The role of physical activity

While some physical activities, such as boxing or jogging, might enhance arousal, others, such as play, can diminish physiological arousal and effectively control anger. Bushman goes on to say, “Certain physical activities that increase arousal may be good for your heart, but they’re definitely not the best way to reduce anger.”

Practical tips for controlling anger

Fortunately, successful anger management does not necessitate complex interventions. Simple methods, such as taking a timeout or deep breathing exercises, can greatly reduce rage. Kjaervik reassures, “You don’t need to necessarily book an appointment with a cognitive behavioral therapist to deal with anger.”

Inviting calm amidst turbulence

In a world full of pressures, practicing anger management is essential. Individuals can better manage their anger by prioritizing calming tactics and understanding the relationship between physiological arousal and emotional reactivity.

Venting anger may provide temporary relief, but lasting resolution requires treating underlying physiological arousal. As we accept stress-relieving measures, we pave the way for a more balanced and peaceful existence.

Source study: Clinical Psychology Review— A meta-analytic review of anger management activities that increase or decrease arousal: What fuels or douses rage?


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