Everyone knows just how taxing a fight with a loved one can be on us emotionally. But new science is showing just how bad arguing is for our physical health. A 20-year study from the University of California, Berkeley, has started to pinpoint some of the negative long-term health effects of arguing. Researchers found that while “outbursts of anger predict cardiovascular problems… shutting down emotionally or ‘stonewalling’ during conflict raises the risk of musculoskeletal ailments such as a bad back or stiff muscles.” These findings come just a couple years after a Dutch study concluded that frequent arguing can lead to premature death. Even though it may feel like arguing is just a part of life, the way we react to conflict and choose to communicate at these stressful moments is actually a matter of life and death.
Fortunately, there are a few very important, highly effective practices we can implement in order to not feel overwhelmed when a conflict arises. All of these practices involve getting to know ourselves and our partner better. When we understand the specific patterns and behaviors that cause us to fly off the handle or completely shut down, we can learn to take pause and take more control over our actions and reactions. We can avoid building cases against our partner and start living more mindfully, thereby removing some of the drama and intensity from our arguments and communication. Here are five key tips for arguing the right way:
1. Be mindful
Practicing mindfulness can help in almost any situation in which we feel triggered emotionally. Mindfulness teaches us to slow down in the moment. Although, this is most challenging in those instances when we’re provoked, it’s essential that we take pause and avoid reacting out of conditioned responses. Instead, we can take a breath (or take a walk or count to 10) in order to calm down, so we can pay attention to what’s going on inside us. When we name the feelings we’re having, we help tame them. Rather than lashing out or ruminating on our thoughts, we can notice that we feel angry or hurt without judgment or justification.
Once we’re in a calmer state, we can choose our responses based on the outcome we desire. As Dr. Pat Love puts it, we can feel the feeling but do the right thing. In addition, practicing patience and compassion toward ourselves helps us do the same with our partner. When we’re operating from a mindful place, we’re better able to tune in to our partner and see the situation from his or her unique perspective.
2. Be open to being wrong
In every relationship, it’s mutually beneficial to be open to the possibility that our perception isn’t necessarily right or wrong but just different. For example, if your partner didn’t call you while he or she was away on a short business trip, you may feel hurt. You may then start to tell yourself stories about why he/she didn’t call. You’ll start to listen to a negative inner dialogue or “critical inner voice” coaching you about what’s going on. “She’s tired of you! She’s happy to get away.” Or, “He doesn’t even think about you. He’s so inconsiderate.” By the time your partner comes home, you may be ready for a fight. However, your partner’s experience is likely very different from yours.
When you attack your partner for everything you’ve been imagining, he or she will most likely retaliate, accusing you of being ridiculous, too sensitive, or needy. Unfortunately, a confrontation in which neither person is willing to hear out and empathize with the other tends to have a snowball effect. If instead you own your reactions and present your feelings without blame or righteousness, your partner is more likely to be able to take in your experience and empathize with your feelings. You can then be open to hearing their experience and seeing how it looked from their perspective.
|whoever shouts loudest, wins|
3. Consider why you’re triggered
When something triggers us emotionally, our brains are often flooded with cortisol making us more likely to lash out. If we take a mindful approach to our responses, we can reflect on the sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that we were having in the moment in which we were triggered. For example, if you were to feel extremely pained by your partner’s lack of communication on his or her trip, there may be more to that feeling than just the hurt or disappointment you felt when he or she failed to call you.
Our emotions tend to be heightened when we’re triggered, often because an event from our present provokes feelings from our past. If you felt abandoned or forgotten early in your life, you may have a tendency to react strongly to any perceived rejection in the present. The same goes for your partner. If he or she had to deal with a parent or caretaker who was erratic or temperamental, he or she may grow up feeling on the defense. He or she may react negatively to feedback when there’s a lot of emotion involved.
When we can get ahold of our triggers, and reflect on the early roots of our strong emotional reactions, we can have a clearer perspective on our interactions and react more appropriately in our current lives.
4. Listen to Your Partner
As most of us know, dynamics like these can play out in countless ways, which is why it’s so important to really get to know ourselves and our partner on a deeper level. We can start by understanding why we get triggered and be more sensitive in our communication. To do this, we have to stop making a case and just look at our partner as the person they he or she really is. That means hearing our partner out when he or she has something to say. It means not putting words into our partner’s mouth or assuming what he or she thinks.
When we think we can “mind read,” we tend to pile a lot of our own projections onto what we perceive to be reality. We may assume certain behaviors carry certain meanings that are way off. For instance, you may attribute your partner not calling you to a lack of caring. You may assume you don’t mean much to him or her or imagine that he or she is losing interest. You may worry yourself with thoughts that he or she has met someone else. Without realizing it, we often project our worst fears onto our loved ones, and then react to them as if we know exactly what’s going on in their heads.
Instead of making assumptions, we should approach our loved ones face-to-face and ask them to share their experience. As we listen, we have to remember that our partner is a separate person with a sovereign mind, so it’s likely that his or her perception of the situation won’t match ours exactly. Instead of focusing on any flaws in the communication, we can look for the kernels of truth in what our partner says to us. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything, but it does benefit us to try and imagine why our partner perceived it that way. When we stay calm and open-minded within ourselves, we create a safe space for our partner to be able to open up and be honest about his or her experience.
5. Keep calm and tell your story
When we really listen to our partner, communicating both curiosity and empathy, the other person tends to soften and feel more open to us. We can then tell our story, making sure to own our experience by describing it without laying blame. Instead of saying, “You didn’t even reach out to me once. You made me feel like I don’t even matter. You don’t seem to care about me. My whole week was ruined” you could say, “When I didn’t hear from you, I noticed myself feeling less confident. I don’t know how you felt, but I was disappointed not to connect.” Pay attention to what you communicate, not just in the words you say, but your body language and tone. Saying “it’s no big deal,” while giving the cold shoulder is sending the message that it is in fact a big deal.
By being more open and direct, we’re not putting words into the other person’s mouth or provoking our partner to be on the defense. We’re simply telling our truth and expressing what we want directly without blaming, complaining, or being victimized. This act of vulnerability is much more likely to elicit a warm, more compassionate and loving response. By taking each of these steps, our partner is more likely to soften, reciprocate and respond to us in a calm and mindful way. And when one of us gets triggered and has an off moment, the other can help by responding with sensitivity, patience, and honesty. By finding this new way of “arguing,” we give our partner and ourselves a great gift, improving the quality (and even the quantity) of the days of our lives together.
and the Director of Research and Education for the Glendon Association.
Do you find yourself angry and irritable more often than you’d like? Does your mood swing out of control at certain times of day? While larger issues could be at play, the cause of your increase in agitation and aggression could be your diet. Let’s take a look at the foods that are most likely responsible for an increase in aggression:
Studies have shown that consumption of trans fats interrupts fat metabolism in the brain, leading to aggressive behaviors. To be specific, trans fats interfere with omega-3 fatty acid metabolism. Since the standard American diet already lacks in omega-3s (in favor of omega-6s), this throws the body way out of whack, which manifests as anger and anxiety. Additionally, trans fats cause inflammation in the body, which isn’t going to do anything to improve your mood. Ditch the Crisco and opt for whole foods instead.
Liquid stimulation! Coffee is one of the most stimulating foods you can put into your body, which can be both beneficial and detrimental. When you drink too much coffee (an amount which is different for everyone since we all tolerate coffee differently), it can induce an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels. This is because caffeine blocks calming adenosine receptors, which allows other, more active and energetic neurotransmitters to take hold and flood you with energy. Unfortunately, because of this, too much coffee can turn small annoyances into high agitation and crankiness. That being said, too little coffee when you’re addicted can lead to withdrawal crankiness as well. Try to nix your addiction to coffee and enjoy caffeine as a treat every other day to keep your moods more stabilized.
Too few carbs
We all know that dieting can make you more cranky and aggressive than usual. Ridding yourself of an addiction to certain foods can be a good thing, but if you aren’t giving your body the nutrients it needs, you’re not going to feel great. Consuming too few carbohydrates, as is common in some Paleo dieters, may cause your mood to steadily deteriorate. Some of us, especially some women, may not thrive on ultra low-carb diets. Pay attention to your energy levels. If you’re low-carb and you feel sluggish, cranky and tired all the time, you probably aren’t eating enough carbohydrates. Your bad mood is your body just trying to tell you what it needs.
Too much sugar
Have you ever eaten a giant cookie and felt absolutely horrible afterwards? Have you, as is natural when you are feeling horrible, become steadily crankier with those around you? Yeah, that’s because you’ve consumed way too much sugar. This is especially apparent in children. Ever notice the post-sugar crash tantrum? Spikes in insulin levels directly affect our moods. Regulating your blood sugar by avoiding excess sugar and eating foods rich in protein, fat and fiber can help to regulate aggressive moods.
For some people, an unfortunate side effect of artificial sweeteners is anger and aggression. While the mechanism that causes this isn’t exactly clear, agitation is clearly associated with artificial sweetener consumption in some. If you’re going to eat something sweet, opt for natural sweeteners, like honey or maple syrup, instead of filling your body with artificial replacements.
While the aforementioned foods can be anger-inducing, certain foods can have a calming effect on your outlook and behavior. Mango and lemon both contain a compound called linalool, which promotes lower levels of stress and anxiety when inhaled. Many teas are also extremely calming, especially those lacking caffeine, like chamomile. And, of course we cannot forget—drumroll—dark chocolate. One bite of good chocolate makes you realize that the universe isn’t so bad after all.
Overall, keeping a consistently healthy, wholesome, moderate diet will help to keep your moods balanced. Pay attention to what you eat. If you feel consistently off when you eat a certain food, try not eating it for a while. Your diet should make you feel good, not grumpy.
We often think of the heart and brain as being completely separate from each other. After all, your heart and brain are located in different regions of your body, and cardiology and neurology are separate disciplines. Yet these organs are intimately connected, and when your emotions adversely affect your brain, your heart is affected as well.
The negative impact of emotions when your heart is already vulnerable
There are two kinds of stress that impact your brain. Helpful stress (also known as eustress) can assist you with getting things done by helping you focus your attention. Unhelpful stress (distress), on the other hand, can be so severe that it can lead to fatigue and heart disease.
If you have coronary artery disease (CAD), your heart may be deprived of oxygen. This deprivation, called myocardial ischemia, can occur in as many as 30% to 50% of all patients with CAD. It can be further exacerbated by emotional stress. In fact, if you have any type of heart disease, any strong emotion such as anger may also cause severe and fatal irregular heart rhythms. Expressions like “died from fright” and “worried to death” are not just hyperbole — they are physiologic possibilities. Furthermore, when patients with newly diagnosed heart disease become depressed, that depression increases the risk that a harmful heart-related event will occur within that year.
The negative impact of emotions when you have no heart disease
Of course, stress can have a big effect on your heart even if you don’t have heart disease. Here’s just one example: In 1997, cardiologist Lauri Toivonen and colleagues conducted a study of EKG changes in healthy physicians before and during the first 30 seconds of an emergency call. They saw changes that indicated oxygen deprivation and abnormal heart rhythms.
More recent studies have also observed these changes in the setting of with stress, anxiety, and depression — all of which are, of course, brain-based conditions. Even in people with no prior heart disease, major depression doubles the risk of dying from heart-related causes.
Cardiac psychology: Tending to your emotions for your heart’s sake
It is important to control your worry and stress, not just because you will worry less and feel better, but because less worry means less stress for your heart. This applies to the entire range of stressors, from a small episode of acute panic to a larger context such as living through a natural disaster. For all the reasons outlined above, a new emotion-based approach to heart health, called cardiac psychology, is receiving increasing interest.
You really can change your brain and get a healthier heart in the process. Here are some ways to get started:
- Seek professional help. Don’t ignore stress, anxiety, depression, excessive worry, or bouts of anger that overwhelm your life. Seek professional help. If you meet criteria for a diagnosis, treatment can help reduce symptoms, thereby protecting your brain and your heart.
- Available treatments in cardiac psychology. Aside from more traditional psychiatric treatment and exercise, psycho-educational programs, educational training, stress management, biofeedback, counseling sessions, and relaxation techniques should all be considered before or after a heart-related event. Newer treatments such as acceptance and commitment therapy and expressive writing can also be helpful.
- Exercise. Physical exercise can help you have a healthier heart and brain — in the right doses. For example, many recent studies have demonstrated that aerobic exercise can help you be more mentally nimble by helping you think faster and more flexibly. Even frail older adults have improved their thinking and overall psychological well-being from exercising for one hour, three times a week. And people in rehabilitation after being diagnosed with heart failure report clearer thinking when their fitness levels improve.As clinical research scientist Michelle Ploughman commented, “exercise is brain food.” Various types of aerobic exercise, including jogging, swimming, cycling, walking, gardening, and dancing, have all been proven to reduce anxiety and depression and to improve self-esteem. This is thought to be due to an increase in blood circulation in the brain, and the fact that exercise can improve the brain’s ability to react to stress.
A starting point for better brain — and heart — health
If you struggle with stress, anger, anxiety, worry, depression, or problems with self-esteem, talk to your primary care physician — or a cardiologist, if you have one. A consultation with a psychiatrist may be very helpful. Together, you can explore which of these potential therapies might best protect your psychological state, your brain, and your heart.
Erin Newman August 11, 2015
The more we learn about disease, the more we start to realize that there is no separation of body from mind. Treating just the symptoms of a disease does us no good if we are not also changing our mental outlook. For instance, depressed patients with any type of disease, recover more slowly and have worse health outcomes than optimistic patients.
Scientists have also now seen enough cases of “broken heart syndrome,” often brought on by the death of a spouse, that we now have a medical term for it: stress-induced cardiomyopathy. All of this should give us cause for hope, though. It means that we can take charge of our own health, and that we can learn ways to prevent disease in our lives.
It is our mental and physical health, and not our genes, that carries the most weight in determining our health outcomes. To quote Craig Venter, a pioneer in genomic research,
“Everybody talks about the genes that they received from their mother and father, for this trait or the other. But in reality, those genes have very little impact on life outcomes. Our biology is way too complicated for that and deals with hundreds of thousands of independent factors. Genes are absolutely not our fate. They can give us useful information about the increased risk of a disease, but in most cases they will not determine the actual cause of the disease, or the actual incidence of somebody getting it. Most biology will come from the complex interaction of all the proteins and cells working with environmental factors, not driven directly by the genetic code.”
And as one recent study affirms, 90 to 95 percent of cancer is preventable with lifestyle changes, and one of the largest (and as yet least understood) is our mental disposition.
Releasing Anger: The key to prevention?
One study of over 160 women with breast cancer found a significant association between health and the suppression of emotions, most commonly anger. Another study concluded that suppression of anger may have a direct impact on mortality, including deaths from cancer. And yet another study determined that “Emotion-focused coping strategies were significantly associated with survival.”
All of which just means that if we want to live long and healthy lives, we’ve got to learn to express our anger and other emotions.
Ways to tell that you may be suppressing anger or other emotions:
• People tell you that you are always smiling and happy.
• You often feel as if you can’t say no.
• You feel overwhelmed and tense.
• You no longer know what makes you happy, only what makes others happy.
• You worry often about the past or future
• Overeating, drinking, medicating, shopping, or other addictive behaviors
Women, especially, have been taught at an early age that it’s not okay to display anger. “Just who do you think you are, missy?” we might have heard, or later, we might have gotten the distinct message that we don’t want to be seen as a witch with a capital “B.” We may then mask this emotion with a happy face, or by eating, drinking, medications, or other ways to numb the emotion.
What’s behind the anger?
Often, we may not even know that we are angry about something. We might not hear the words that run through our minds about an incident or a person who’s angered us. And, while we may not want to admit it, or may not even recognize it on a conscious level, our anger is usually a mask for other, even less comfortable emotions. Sadness, shame, guilt or regret are often at the heart of our anger at another. These emotions may be even harder to recognize and discover, but when we get down to this level of emotions, then we can really clear them out and make way for love and joy.
Ways of handling anger:
Expressing or handling our anger doesn’t mean venting to others –either at the person that we are angry with or another. We must express the anger in a safe and loving way that allows us to acknowledge the anger and then work through it.
Journaling: Daily journaling is one of the most powerful ways to get in touch with your subconscious mind (which is where many of these suppressed thoughts and emotions may be lurking). This is not a “here’s what I did today” type of journal, but instead a “ this is what’s bothering me” type of journal. Clearly express everything on your mind, including just how you really and truly feel towards a person, whether that be your spouse, your child, a friend, or a parent. Many people worry that others might read their journal; if this is you, burn or shred the paper after writing. (Believe me, you won’t ever want to go back and read it!) I find (and many recommend) that journaling works best in the morning, when your mind hasn’t had time to fill itself up with thoughts of the day yet.
Loving our anger: Part of suppressing emotions is the idea that we should not be feeling a certain way at all, or that we would like for that feeling or thought to go away and leave us alone. If we can instead acknowledge that the feeling or thought is part of us, and allow it to be seen, then it will no longer have as much power to hurt us. Best yet, once we acknowledge the feeling or emotion, we can then direct love to that place in our bodies where we most feel the emotion. (This also seems to work best in the mornings, too, in a space that you can be quiet and still. But if that doesn’t work, then lunch breaks or evenings can be a good time, also.)
If these methods sound too tough or unrealistic, or just something that you can’t fit into your life, then it may help to speak to a professional who can help you to discover your inner emotions. We owe it to ourselves and to the people who love us to live the most emotionally rich and healthy lives as possible!
08/10/2015 Brianna Wiest
Every generation has a “monoculture” of sorts, a governing pattern or system of beliefs that people unconsciously accept as “truth.” It’s easy to identify the monoculture of Germany in the 1930s, or America in 1776. It’s clear what people at those times, in those places, accepted to be “good” and “true” even when in reality, that was certainly not always the case.
The objectivity required to see the effects of present monoculture is very difficult to maintain (once you have so deeply accepted an idea as ‘truth’ it doesn’t register as ‘cultural’ or ‘subjective’ anymore) … but it’s crucial. So much of our inner turmoil is simply the result of conducting a life we don’t inherently agree with, because we have accepted an inner narrative of “normal” and “ideal” without ever realizing.
The fundamentals of any given monoculture tend to surround how to live your best life, how to live a better life, and what’s most worth living for (nation, religion, self, etc.) and there are a number of ways in which our current system has us shooting ourselves in the feet as we try to step forward. Simply, there are a few fundamentals on happiness, decision making, instinct following and peace finding that we don’t seem to understand.
So here, eight of the daily behaviors and unconscious habits that are keeping you from the life you really want.
1. You believe that creating your best possible life is a matter of deciding what you want and then going after it, but in reality, you are psychologically incapable of being able to predict what will make you happy.
Your brain can only perceive what it’s known, so when you choose what you want for the future, you’re actually just re-creating a solution or an ideal of the past. Ironically, when said ideas don’t come to fruition (things never look the way we think they will) you suffer, because you think you’ve failed, when really, you’re most likely experiencing something better than you could have chosen for yourself at the time. (Moral of the story: Living in the moment isn’t a lofty ideal reserved for the zen and enlightened, it’s the only way to live a life that isn’t infiltrated with illusions… it’s the only thing your brain can actually comprehend.)
2. You extrapolate the present moment because you believe that success is somewhere you “arrive,” so you are constantly trying to take a snapshot of your life and see if you can be happy yet.
You accidentally convince yourself that any given moment is your life, when in reality, it is a moment in your life. Because we’re wired to believe that success is somewhere we get to – when goals are accomplished and things are completed – we’re constantly measuring our present moments by how “finished” they are, how good the story sounds, how someone else would judge the summary. (If at any point you find yourself thinking: “is this all there is?” you’re forgetting that everything is transitory. There is nowhere to “arrive” at. The only thing you’re rushing toward is death. Accomplishing goals is not success. How much you learn and enjoy and expand in the process of doing them is.)
3. You assume that when it comes to following your “gut instincts,” happiness is “good,” and fear and pain is “bad.”
When you consider doing something that you truly love and are invested in, you are going to feel an influx of fear and pain, mostly because it will involve being vulnerable. When it comes to making decisions, you have to know that bad feelings are not deterrents. They are indicators that you want to do something, but it scares you (which are the things most worth doing, if you ask me). Not wanting to do something would make you feel indifferent about it. Fear = interest.
4. You needlessly create problems and crises in your life because you’re afraid of actually living it.
The pattern of unnecessarily creating crisis in your life is actually an avoidance technique. It distracts you from actually having to be vulnerable or held accountable or whatever it is you’re afraid of. You’re never upset for the reason you think you are: at the core of your desire to create a problem is simply the fear of being who you are, and living the life you want.
5. You think that to change your beliefs, you have to adopt a new line of thinking, rather than seek experiences that make that thinking self-evident.
A belief is what you know to be true because experience has made it evident to you. If you want to change your life, change your beliefs. If you want to change your beliefs, go out and have experiences that make them real to you. Not the opposite way around.
6. You think “problems” are road blocks to achieving what you want, when in reality, they are pathways.
If you haven’t heard it before, Marcus Aurelius sums this up well: “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” Ryan Holiday explains it even more gracefully: “The obstacle is the way.” Simply, running into a “problem” forces you to take action to resolve it. That action leads you down the path you had ultimately intended to go anyway, as the only “problems” in your life ultimately come down to how you resist who you are and how your life naturally unfolds.
7. You think your past defines you, and worse, you think that it is an unchangeable reality, when really, your perception of it changes as you do.
Because experience is always multi-dimensional, there are a variety of memories, experiences, feelings, “gists” you can choose to recall… and what you choose is indicative of your present state of mind. So many people get caught up in allowing the past to define them, or haunt them, simply because they have not evolved to the place of seeing how the past did not prevent them from achieving the life they want… it facilitated it (see: the obstacle is the way). This doesn’t mean to disregard or gloss over painful or traumatic events, but simply to be able to recall them with acceptance and to be able to place them in the storyline of your personal evolution.
8. You try to change other people, situations and things (or you just complain/get upset about them) when anger = self-recognition.
Most negative emotional reactions are you identifying a disassociated aspect of yourself. Your “shadow selves” are the parts of you that, at some point, you were conditioned to believe were “not okay,” so you suppressed them and have done everything in your power not to acknowledge them. You don’t actually dislike these parts of yourself, though, you absolutely love them. So when you see somebody else displaying one of these traits, it absolutely infuriates you, not because you inherently dislike it, but because you have to fight your desire to fully integrate it into your whole consciousness. The things you love about others are the things you love about yourself. The things you hate about others are the things you cannot see in yourself.