Turning down the heat is key to managing anger

Recent research suggests that venting about sources of anger may offer momentary relief but is ultimately ineffective at quelling rage. Instead, techniques commonly employed to manage stress – such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, or even simple strategies like counting to 10 – have demonstrated greater efficacy in reducing anger and aggression.

A comprehensive analysis of over 150 studies involving more than 10,000 participants revealed that the key to reducing anger lies in lowering physiological arousal, essentially cooling down emotional heat. Activities that heightened arousal levels showed no significant impact on anger, and in some cases, exacerbated it – particularly activities like jogging.

Brad Bushman, professor of communication at Ohio State University and senior author of the study, emphasized the importance of dispelling the myth that venting anger is a productive coping mechanism. He stated, “Venting anger might sound like a good idea, but there’s not a shred of scientific evidence to support catharsis theory.”

Sophie Kjærvik, a postdoctoral fellow at Virginia Commonwealth University and one of the researchers involved, expressed the inspiration behind the study, which was partly fueled by the increasing popularity of rage rooms where individuals smash objects to release anger. Kjærvik emphasized the significance of reducing arousal levels, addressing the physiological aspect of anger.

The study found that activities aimed at decreasing arousal were effective in managing anger across various settings and populations, including college students, individuals with and without criminal histories, and those with and without intellectual disabilities. Strategies such as deep breathing, relaxation techniques, mindfulness, meditation, slow flow yoga, progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, and taking timeouts were identified as effective in reducing anger.

Kjærvik noted the surprising finding that relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation were as effective as mindfulness and meditation in reducing anger. Additionally, she highlighted that even yoga, which can be stimulating, serves as a means of calming and focusing on breath, thereby reducing anger.

The study underscores the importance of utilizing stress management techniques to address anger, particularly in today’s society where stress is pervasive. It suggests that strategies effective for managing stress are equally beneficial for mitigating anger, providing valuable insights for anger management interventions.

Source: Science Daily