Do you act out when you get angry or upset in the hope that venting will make you feel better? It turns out that mood freezing is a more effective option.
The term “mood freezing” comes from a 1984 study where researchers intentionally got people riled up. You won’t believe what they did next.
They gave them a placebo pill that would supposedly make it impossible for them to change their mood.
Even more surprising, once people were convinced that aggression would fail to give them relief, they tried other solutions and said they felt happier.
That’s because catharsis is a myth.
Expressing unpleasant feelings usually fails to get them out of your system, even if you enjoy the venting in a way. Relaxation and other techniques are more effective.
Benefits of Mood Freezing and Other Non-Aggressive Techniques
1. Protect your relationships. Blowing off steam can distance you from your loved ones. Respectful discussions smooth the way for staying connected and for greater cooperation.
2. Clarify your thinking. Anger and stress clouds our minds. It’s easier to be logical when you’re calm.
3. Avoid regrets. Once you use your upper case voice, it’s hard to take it back. Speaking gently spares you from having to make a lot of repairs.
4. Enjoy more happiness. Anger may sometimes feel exciting. However, in the long term, abandoning aggression will make you more content.
Non-Aggressive Alternatives for Dealing with Unpleasant Emotions
1. Accept the situation. For instant relief, decide to make the best of whatever happens. As you pay attention to things you can control, other factors become less disturbing.
2. Practice relaxation. Develop relaxation methods that work for you. Engage in daily meditation or take a walk. Listen to instrumental music or get a massage.
3. Retire to a quiet place. Modern life bombards us with noise so it’s nice to have someplace you can retreat to. After listening to Chopin while taking a warm bath surrounded by candles, you may feel differently about the seatmate who snored all through a long flight.
4. Take a pause. There’s a lot of wisdom in stopping your anger by counting to ten. Give yourself time to consider how to respond when a coworker saddles you with extra work.
5. Anticipate consequences. Use that interval to calculate how different approaches are likely to turn out. Splitting up chores with your roommate sounds more promising than seeing how high the kitchen garbage can pile up.
6. Talk it over. Direct discussions usually work best. Negotiate a flexible work schedule with your boss rather than letting resentments build up over last minute overtime requests.
7. Challenge media representations. Lots of movies and TV shows celebrate aggression. After all, it does look dramatic. Maintain a critical mind so you can separate entertainment from real life.
8. Seek distractions. Some things need to be examined and others are best left alone. Listen to an audio book to take your mind off a long daily commute.
9. Analyze events. On the other hand, serious issues require more attention. Ask yourself why a long term friendship now seems strained. It’s worth getting to the bottom of it.
10. Address root causes. Make an effort to identify the ultimate source of your feelings. Your distress over a broken fingernail may really be tied to deeper concerns about your body image.
11. Change your routine. There may be a grave dilemma in your life or recurring patterns that bother you. If you want different results, do things differently. For example, put an end to homework squabbles by agreeing on a set schedule or hiring a tutor.
If you want to be happier, try to vent less and relax more. No pill is necessary. Training yourself to react peacefully to unpleasant emotions works better.
Manucia, G. K.; Baumann, D. J.; Cialdini, R. B. (1984).
“Mood influences on helping: direct effects or side effects?“.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 46: 357–364. doi:10.1037/0022-3518.104.22.1687