Unless you are a Buddhist monk who has reached the highest level of enlightenment, you are going to get angry at least a few times a month. It's not your fault either. How do you expect to calmly handle the situation when customer service puts you on hold again? Anger is not just an emotion, however, as it causes a series of hormonal and physiological reactions in the body. You know what happens on the outside when you get angry. People start to apologize, run for cover, and some glasses can get crushed in the process. But what really happens inside your body when you get angry?
This is what happens to your body when you get angry
Response of the amygdala when you get angry
Let's imagine the guy delivering the pizza is 40 minutes late, only to show up with the wrong order. Inside the temporal lobe of your brain is the amygdala. This region is fully responsible for your emotions and controls your fight or flight responses. The amygdala is triggered by the delivery boy's irresponsibility and causes a wave of blood to flow through your frontal cortex, impairing your ability to think clearly.
You can start cursing all generations of the poor pizza boy's family because you are so consumed by your excitement. The part of your brain responsible for logical reasoning is clouded by the response created by the amygdala. The things you say often, but don't really mean in the heat of the moment, are often due to the over-excited amygdala.
The adrenal secretes cortisol
The adrenal gland then senses that things are heating up and prepares the body for fight or flight. It begins to secrete cortisol and adrenaline, the stress hormones that tell your body to prepare. This redirects the blood that flows to your stomach and small intestine to your muscles instead.
Your blood pressure rises, your pupils dilate, your heart rate increases, and your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. At this point, you will be visibly furious at the guy delivering the pizza who is probably cowering at you.
Fatty acids and fat in the arteries
Your body also begins to pump more fatty acids and sugar into your bloodstream to provide you with enough energy to deal with the threat. While this is great in real life threatening situations, if it happens too often it could be a problem. If you get angry too often, fatty acids and sugar start to build up in your bloodstream, clogging your arteries.
The hippocampus (the region responsible for responding to stress) also gets confused if you get angry too often. You won't be able to tell the difference between a really stressful event and something small. By getting angry too often, you are hurting your hippocampus, which will soon begin to respond to even trivial events with its usual high-stress responses.
Chronic anger is bad for your health
Getting angry a couple of times a month is completely normal. But if you find yourself losing patience on even the smallest things, it could have a detrimental effect on your health. Anger issues have been linked to an increased risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, and insomnia, among other things. There are some simple things you can do if you want to stay in control the next time you feel like your anger is getting the best of you.
Remember how the blood rushing to our brains impedes our ability to think clearly? The next time you feel like you can say something you might regret, count from one to ten. This should give you enough time to beat the wave of emotion and think rationally again. When you get angry too often, meditation will also help you to achieve better peace of mind, as it teaches you to be the master rather than the slave of your emotions.
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