The iconic Marvin The Martian from Looney Tunes, frustrated by Bugs Bunny in his efforts to blow up Earth, would quickly walk away declaring, “You make me very, very angry.” He offered kids an entertaining lesson in how to handle heated confrontations.
A refresher course for adults would be a good prescription. How people manage anger can make a big difference for personal health and much more.
Anger, itself, is not always a negative thing. Anger can be a natural and useful emotional response to perceived wrongs. For example, getting angry can be highly motivational. Individuals can deploy anger to break a bad habit and groups can work together in the same way. The #MeToo movement rallied collective anger against injustice to achieve social change.
But poorly managed anger is decidedly not good for one’s health – and probably not good for the well-being of everyone else around.
Teach children the tools for anger control is not only about hushing up their outbursts. Researchers have found kids lacking the ability to cope with frustrations tend to have more problem relationships in their adult lives. They also have more physical and mental health issues.
Studies have also shown that people who are chronically angry suffer greater rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, headaches, skin disorders and digestive problems.
Dr. Chris Aiken of Wake Forest University School of Medicine is an expert on natural and lifestyle approaches to health promotion. “In the two hours after an angry outburst, the chance of having a heart attack doubles,” he says.
Anger increases the likelihood of stroke. If you are unlucky enough to have aneurysms in the arteries of the brain, it’s best to “keep calm and carry on”. One study found six times higher risk of rupture following an angry outburst.
Research has also shown angry people get sick more frequently due to negative impacts of stress on their immune systems.
What can you do when you find yourself furious? First, take a clue from Marvin The Martian and leave the scene. Calming down needs to take precedence. Second, figure out what is causing the anger. Get to the root of the matter. It’s recommended you talk with someone – a trusted friend or a trained professional – to validate your thinking. Third, develop an action plan that either fixes the issues or builds coping mechanisms.
Incorporating comedy into anger management is a strategy deserving mention. The evidence shows it works. Another children’s program, Sesame Street, was shaped by psychologists intent on applying research to skits performed by puppeteers. Kermit the Frog had children laughing with his outrageous tirade on Cookie Monster for devouring a happy face.
Kids shows are, by design, intended to be entertaining. But the fact that laughing, happy children learn better than disengaged kids has got others thinking about how to use laughter with adults needing to learn about more serious issues.
Climate change scientists angry by the slow pace of action have adopted comedy as a tactic.
A group of comedians have come together to form the Climate Comedy Cohort. They acknowledge research linking anger with comedy to motivate change. “Comedy is uniquely persuasive and attention-getting when it comes to serious issues like the climate crisis,” they note.
Their work offers audiences levity – in itself a good thing. But their ultimate goal, they say, is “to leverage humor as a strategy to change the climate narrative from doom and gloom to ‘we’ve got this!’—and shift how people see their role in clean energy.”
Next time your anger flares up, it’s good to know you have options.
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