Breathe, Don't Vent: The Scientific Way to Managing Anger

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.19 - 2024 7:15 PM CET

Recent studies reveal that venting may feel satisfying but fails to reduce anger effectively. Instead, methods like deep breathing and meditation are proven to be more beneficial.

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Contrary to popular belief that releasing anger through venting helps in calming down, new research indicates the opposite. Over 150 studies involving more than 10,000 participants demonstrate that calming activities, not arousal-inducing ones, are key to mitigating anger.

Brad Bushman, a professor at The Ohio State University and the senior author of the study, emphasizes, "Venting anger might sound like a good idea, but there's not a shred of scientific evidence to support catharsis theory. To reduce anger, it is better to engage in activities that decrease arousal levels."

Surprisingly, even activities like jogging, often recommended for stress relief, can be counterproductive due to their arousal-increasing nature.

The study, led by Sophie Kjærvik and published in the Clinical Psychology Review, was partly inspired by the trend of rage rooms. These establishments advocate for breaking objects to release anger, a concept the researchers aimed to debunk.

Evidence-Based Anger Management

The research categorizes activities into two types: those that increase arousal, such as physical exercises (e.g., hitting a bag, jogging, cycling, swimming), and those that decrease it, like deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga.

Findings consistently showed that activities reducing arousal were effective in controlling anger in various settings and among diverse groups of people.

Effective techniques include deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and even taking a timeout. These strategies not only help with anger but also with stress management, making them doubly beneficial in today's high-pressure society.

On the other hand, arousal-increasing activities yielded mixed results, with jogging notably likely to exacerbate anger.

Interestingly, activities involving an element of play, such as physical education classes and ball sports, showed potential in decreasing arousal and possibly enhancing positive emotions.

Accessible Solutions for Anger Management

This study sheds light on the importance of choosing the right type of physical activity for anger management.

Bushman notes, "Certain physical activities that increase arousal may be good for your heart, but they're definitely not the best way to reduce anger," Bushman notes. "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."

Thankfully, many of the effective techniques for cooling down anger are readily accessible and often free.

Kjærvik suggests utilizing digital resources such as apps or YouTube videos for guidance in practicing these calming activities.

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