Aren’t you amazed at how conventional wisdom (CW) often gets it all wrong? Remember the CW a couple of years ago – that financial institutions were too big to fail? (Ask Lehman Brothers how that turned out?) Here’s another example we think you should know about: CW has it that the best way to handle your anger is to let it all out, punch a pillow, scream and yell. Wrong again!
It’s just the opposite: Venting like that actually escalates aggression, anger, and anxiety. Even worse, it triggers whole body inflammation that can seriously boost your immediate risk of heart attack and stroke and long-term aging of important organs like your heart, brain, skin, gonads, and kidneys.
You can’t avoid getting angry if you’re human. But you can turn it around so it doesn’t make you older. Try these calming tips that work for us:
Choose smart words. Don’t jump to extremes: “This !#@#%$ computer never works” or “You’re always late!” Tell yourself this is just one of those things that happens sometimes – nobody’s gonna die. That gives you the breathing space to fix whatever set you off. Whew, that’s a relief.
Go for a fast walk. Or do push-ups. Or press your fingers together hard and take three deep breaths. Focused physical activity channels those angry feelings so they ease off without anyone getting hurt. Bonus: You’ll be breathing too hard to say anything you’ll later regret.
Do the opposite. Feel like cursing that guy who cut you off? Try the opposite of anger: Empathy. Imagine that he just got word his child is in the hospital. You’ll calm down faster if you think about how much he is suffering; most people aren’t jerks on purpose.