Happiness isn’t the only healthy emotion. Controlled anger has its health benefits, too
Whether on the job, in gridlocked traffic or battling for control of the remote, anger creeps in to life’s most tense situations. For most, social decorum dictates bottling said rage even though pent-up frustration, which has been linked to hypertension and digestive problems, as well as insomnia and compulsive overeating. To stay sane, experts say there are good ways to let your frustrations fly.
“Anger can be good when it sends a message to ourselves and those around us that there is an issue in our lives that needs to be addressed,” says W. Doyle Gentry, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Anger-Free Living, Lynchburg, Va., and author of “50 Ways to a Better You for Dummies” (Wiley, 2010). “Those issues may have to do with morality (unfairness), another emotion (fear or sadness) or stress (when our lives are unbalanced – all work and no play).”
According to Gentry, expressing anger can even have a helpful effect on key interpersonal relationships, such as a marital, parent-child or work relationship, if it relieves built-up tension and clarifies conflicts that inevitably exist in all relationships. However, for anger to be constructive or healthy, he adds, it should be focused on the problem, not the person – make the anger about the “what,” not the “who.”
Contrary to what your kindergarten teacher may have taught you, sometimes getting mad isn’t bad. Some people say you should always rise above it. According to Gentry, it’s not a necessary goal. Anger is often justified when you feel harassed, disrespected or when someone is trying to control you in unfair ways.”
And, further, just as excessive rage can adversely affect your health, suppressing anger can lead to depression, bruxism (grinding your teeth), high blood pressure and increased risk for heart attack and obesity.
Gentry’s tips for expressing your anger in a healthy manner include keeping an anger log – spend 15 minutes a day writing down all your negative feelings and then toss the piece of paper in the trash. He also suggests using exercise to help drain away angry energy and, instead of venting, ranting or having a tantrum, try “ventilating” – airing out your accumulated anger by talking about it in a reasonable way with someone you trust.
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