Angry? Tell someone. Sharing your feelings may be good for your heart. That’s the upshot of new research that found the act of describing a feeling such as anger may have a significant impact on the body's physiological response to the situation that elicits the emotion.
The findings, published in the Public Library of Science journal PLOS ONE, are the latest to confirm the physical and psychological benefits of not bottling up emotions.
Lead researchers Karim Kassam from Carnegie Mellon University and Wendy Mendes from the University of California-San Francisco based their conclusions on the experiences of a group of volunteers asked to complete a difficult math task as trained instructors deliberately criticized them as they worked through the assignment.
The negative feedback was designed to provoke anger in some participants and shame in others. At the end of the task, some of the volunteers were asked to verbalize their feelings while others were given a set of neutral questions that did not assess their emotional state.
By comparing the two groups, researchers found participants who verbalized their anger had a slower increase in heart rate — and thus had less stress on the heart — compared to the others.
"What impressed us was that a subtle manipulation had a big impact on people's physiological response," said Kassam. "Essentially, we're asking people how they're feeling and finding that doing so has a sizeable impact on their cardiovascular response."
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