Its not a secret – it is impossible to be happy and angry at the same time. While it is commonly accepted that psychological effects of prolonged anger are very harmful very few ever mention the damage this tension can inflict on our true home – the body.
This stressed state was useful in ancient times – and is still useful in a few, rare modern situations as well. The fight-or-flight reaction enables us to make split-second decisions as to whether we should flee or fight in highly dangerous situations. For example, you’re driving on the freeway with your favorite beat on and suddenly you see some disco lights behind you that awfully resemble a cop car, then you look at your speedometer and are shocked to find out you’re oozing at a comfortable 90 MPH… Your heart rate is up, adrenaline is kicking, now what? Do you flee, freeze or or fight? Joking of course but you get the point – anger is a physical event in your body.
However, there is also a physical trade-off for this state of ultra-readiness. In order to enhance the hormonal system, the body depresses other systems, including the immune system. The problem is, your body is not fashioned to function in a chronic state of imbalance. When anger too often dominates our emotions, the body experiences chronic stress. When the body’s immune system is weakened due to chronic stress, we feel drained (remember that next day morning after a big verbal fight?) and become vulnerable to a host of diseases. For example, high levels of anger have been found to destroy T-cells, a type of white blood cell that helps protect us from cancer and other diseases. There is also a mounting evidence of cases that link our inability to control anger to nasty migranes, colds and flu, as well as to increased risks of stroke, hypertension, and gastrointestinal problems.
The stress response that anger triggers also puts a strain on the cardiovascular system. I suppose you’ll find it as no surprise that many scientific studies have shown a direct correlation between chronic anger and heart disease. The research being done by the Harvard-MGH group points out that higher rates of heart attacks and coronary artery disease are closely associated with anger and hostility. Under stress, the heart rate increases, constricting blood vessels and raising blood pressure. High levels of glucose are released into the blood vessels, resulting in more fat globules in the blood stream. Same research suggests that depression, anger, and hostility also raise the risk of diabetes. Friends and family are not far from the truth when they say, “Calm down you fool, you’ll give yourself a heart attack!”
These studies are also proving a connection between mind and body, brain and emotions. Studies have been conducted that have shown how the correct mindset can help control a number of emotional and physiological issues; everything from bladder control to better stamina in bed, from anxiety to depression, etc. The mind, after all, is part of the body.
Toxic emotions cause toxicity in the body
The good news is that your choices, thoughts and actions will influence your ability to control anger. While it may not be as easy as flipping a switch and more like trying to lose a cop with disco lights in your rear view mirror, you can nevertheless learn to change your reactions to difficult and frustrating situations by applying some time tested anger management techniques in daily life. As a result, you will become more patient and enjoy a greater sense of peace and well-being. Then you can be like my grandpa who used to say after we complained… “Yeh yeh I know smoking is harmful but I am happy and I also eat carrots.” He lived and loved till age 90.