Bottling up emotions: How to deal with anger naturally

Keeping emotions bottled up to push them aside is never an excellent strategy, especially in dealing with the intense feeling of anger.

In a recent article for Psychology Today, therapist Jennifer Rollin pointed out that this habit doesn’t just drain our energy but also leaves us feeling emotionally numb.

“You can’t cherry-pick your emotions. Resorting to negative behaviours to avoid feeling your emotions might reduce sadness and anger, but it also prevents you from experiencing happiness and joy,” she wrote.

However, for many women, embracing anger isn’t always easy. While some might see letting it out as an opportunity to have a good scream or blow off steam in a “rage room,” others might prefer quieter approaches, like jotting down their frustrations on paper to externalise them better.

And according to recent scientific research, these quieter methods may actually be more effective.

To calm anger, it’s essential to decrease physiological arousal.

In a study published on March 11, 2024, in the Clinical Psychology Review, researchers from Ohio State University explained that promoting calm reactions, rather than explosive ones, is more effective, based on their findings.

To conclude this, scientists reviewed over 150 studies on anger and followed the “two-factor theory of Schachter-Singer.”

“This theory suggests that all emotions, including anger, result in physiological arousal and mental meanings. Therefore, to reduce anger levels, one can work on either or both aspects,” explains the Study Finds website.

“Previous research has focused on changing mental meanings using cognitive-behavioural therapy, with promising results. However, a meta-analysis on the role of arousal fills a crucial gap in our understanding of how to manage anger,” the scientists explain.

Prefer deep breathing over hitting

According to Brad Bushman, a co-author of the meta-analysis, it’s essential to “debunk the myth that if you’re angry, you need to blow off steam to feel better,” as he wrote in a press release.

Because this belief can often do more harm than good, increasing anger rather than calming it down, as their groundbreaking study demonstrates.

By comparing activities that increase arousal (like hitting a punching bag, jogging, cycling, swimming) with activities that decrease arousal (such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, yoga), practised in response to anger, the research team validated their hypothesis.

“What truly helps reduce feelings of anger is decreasing physiological arousal. Activities known to increase overall arousal showed no effect on anger, but some activities actually worsened anger, such as jogging,” summarise the researchers.

What are the best activities to calm anger?

Indeed, the results suggest that activities reducing arousal are effective in reducing levels of rage, both in the lab and in real life.

By testing various “calm” methods in person or online, scientists noted that activities showing particular effectiveness in reducing anger were deep breathing, relaxation, mindfulness, meditation, gentle yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, and taking a marked pause.

“It’s fascinating to see that simple relaxation techniques can be just as effective as more complex approaches like mindfulness and meditation,” notes Sophie Kjærvik, co-author of the study. “And yoga, which can be more stimulating than meditation and mindfulness, remains a way to calm down and focus on breathing, with the same effect in reducing anger.”

However, in their observations, while running was noted as an activity that often fueled anger the most, they also found that participating in team sports classes or ball sports could have a calming effect.

“According to the researchers, this suggests that introducing an element of play into physical activity can help increase positive emotions or counteract negative ones,” adds Study Finds.

Nevertheless, if you find it difficult to express or manage your anger, experts recommend seeking help from a mental health specialist.

This article was syndicated from Marie Claire France
Translated and adapted by Praise Vandeh, Marie Claire Nigeria Content Writer


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