Take a walk instead, friend.
You're having one of those days — you know, the kind that make you want to pull out all your hair in frustration. You've got to do something to dissipate all the anger you're feeling, so you turn to your favorite way to vent: Gchat.
Gchatting can be an immediate, intimate, and strangely satisfying way to type out your negative emotions. The problem is that venting, via any medium, doesn't help you get over your anger; it actually makes you madder.
"Venting may make you feel different in the moment, but the change in emotional state doesn't necessarily feel better; it may just feel less bad," says Jeffrey Lohr, a psychologist at the University of Arkansas.
"People don't break wind in elevators more than they have to. Venting anger is an emotional expression. It's similar to emotional farting in a closed area. It sounds like a good idea but it's dead wrong."
In one of the studies, students were forced to sit through a deliberately confusing lecture about how to make an origami sailboat. Halfway through the lesson, half the students were given a chance to review the instructor's performance using evaluation forms, while the other half stayed where they were. Everyone, including those who had already filled out a form, was asked to review their teacher at the end of the lesson.
When the evaluations were collected, the researchers saw that those who were encouraged to let out their frustrations the first time around were much harsher in the subsequent review than those who hadn't filled out a form.
"What people fail to realize is that the anger would've dissipated had they not vented, " Lohr says. "Moreover, it would've dissipated more quickly had they not vented and tried to control their anger instead."
But resisting the urge to rant is difficult, especially because, as Ohio State University professor Brad Bushman has demonstrated through his research, people genuinely believe that complaining freely will help them feel better.
"People love to vent," said Bushman. But unstead of venting by Gchat or any other medium, Lohr suggests three things you can to to release your anger:
- Take a timeout. Anger dissipates faster when people take deep breaths, relax, or take a timeout. "Any action that makes it impossible to sustain the angry state can help diffuse anger," says Lohr.
- Express yourself effectively. Try not to confront someone in the heat of the moment, and avoid criticizing or blaming the other person as it will only increase tension. Use "I" instead of "You" statements. Be willing to listen to the other person's response.
- Put it in writing. Keep a journal or write a letter that you don't share. Then, assess your feelings to determine the cause and possible solution to your anger.
"Make sure that you identify that you're feeling anger, rather than other negative emotions like sadness and depression, " says Lohr.
Next time you feel anger and want to vent on Gchat , get up from the computer and walk around the block. If you diffuse your anger, you'll feel much better!
If that fails, why not go for some ice cream or treat yourself to a nice, relaxing massage.