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The Science of Anger

June 7, 2018 by


While everyone is aware that your feelings affect your mental state, but did you know they affect your physical state as well? This means that stress can impact your physical body, especially if you don’t live a healthy lifestyle through diet and exercise.

The cause of this is not completely known, but certain emotions are associated with pain in specific regions of the body. For example, people with depression often have chest pains, even in the absence of heart disease. Further, grief also has a specific physical impact, as studies have shown that you are 21 times more likely to have a heart attack soon after losing a loved one.

Researchers are continuing to look at the cause of these relationships, but they do know that the brain plays a distinct role in the experience of physical pain, and the thoughts and feelings that go on inside the brain may play a role in the development of chronic diseases. Because of this, many people participate in mind-body therapies that consider the relationship between emotions and physical health.

When you get angry, there is a biochemical cascade that that happens in your body. When this happens, stress chemicals are released and your body goes into fight or flight mode and prepares itself to take action.

The fast release of stress chemicals increase your heart rate and blood pressure, which also makes you breathe quickly. It also signals your body to release glucose and fats, which gives you a burst of energy. Your blood circulates toward your extremities, which is why anger can make your face turn red. All of this happens so fast, it’s already happening before you are able to even process what is going on.

There are a few things you can do to help manage your emotions to prevent your body from having a physical reaction. First, it is important to eat a healthy diet including lots of fruit and vegetables and high-quality fats. It is also important to exercise on a regular basis, whether that is relaxing exercises such as yoga or more intense exercises like running. You also have to make sure that you get enough sleep each night to allow your body to rejuvenate itself for the next day. Aim for seven to nine hours each night. Doing these things will help manage your stress, but it is also critical that you decrease the amount of stress in your life as much as you can.

When you start to feel angry, take a minute to do some deep breathing and let your body recenter itself before you respond. Getting angry on a regular basis can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease, including heart attack and stroke. Research has actually shown that people who are quick to anger usually live shorter lives than their more calm peers.

Of course everyone gets angry every now and then, which is not likely to have a severe impact on your health. However, having an intense outburst of anger can still increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke if you are already predispositioned to having one.

However, it is not a good idea to suppress your anger either. Doing this leads to stress and has been found to triple your risk of suffering a heart attack. Instead, it is best to accept your negative thoughts and allow yourself to feel them and sort through them instead of pretend they are not there. People who allow sadness and anger to run its course have fewer symptoms of mood disorders than those who ignore them. Suppressing your negative emotions like anger, fear, and frustration can also lead to chronic pain, particularly back pain.

Chronic anger can also increase your risk for dementia. Your brain health suffers if you’re always angry. Cynical distrust, which is a form of chronic anger, is especially known to be related to a higher risk of dementia. Cynical distrust refers to the belief that most people only have selfish motives instead of caring about the well-being of other people.

People with cynical distrust attitudes likely suffer from more stress and do not have the social support that is needed to mitigate the impacts of stress. It has also been related to poor oral health, general inflammation, heart problems, and dementia. Further, cynical distrust has been linked to an increased metabolic burden in middle-aged and older adults.

To keep your physical health optimized, try to manage your anger. Take some time to do some mindful meditation and practice gratitude to reduce your negative feelings. If you feel like you are going to get upset, take a few moments to breathe before you react. Doing this will help your physical health in the long run.

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