What did you get annoyed about in the past few days? The bad weather? The tram that you missed by a matter of seconds? The long queue at the supermarket checkout? An urgent piece of work from your boss? For many people, barely a day goes by in which they don’t get annoyed about something. Anger can serve as a strong incentive to act – a driver that makes us really change things. However, anger can also make us physically unwell – particularly if we get annoyed about issues that we cannot change.
Can I change something…
Anger can serve a purpose, since it can encourage us to take a closer look at things and to ask questions such as: Why do I get annoyed? Can I alter the situation? How will I benefit if I change? If we see the benefits of making a change, we can make it happen. One example is if a person gets angry with him or herself for having smoked another cigarette and then finally manages to stop smoking. Or when we say ‘yes’ yet again when we actually want to say ‘no’ – and we see that it is not good for us. This means that the next time, we will hopefully say a firm but polite ‘no’. So far so good.
In most cases, we get annoyed about things that we cannot change: A tailback on the motorway, a child’s socks left lying on the floor again and again or a partner arriving too late for an appointment, to name but a few examples. Does it actually achieve anything if we get worked up in these cases? According to Buddha, the answer is no: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hold coal with the intent of throwing at someone else. You are the one who gets burned.”
It is true that ‘pointless’ anger is harmful. When a person becomes angry, the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline are released in the body. This increases the person’s blood pressure and heart rate, while their breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. Studies have shown that experiencing frequent bouts of anger is just as harmful to the body as smoking or high blood pressure. Researchers at the University of North Carolina have discovered that middle-aged men and women who frequently became annoyed in daily life are three times more at risk of suffering a heart attack in the next six years than those individuals who adopt a more relaxed attitude to issues that are annoying but beyond their control.
Is it worth it?
You should therefore consider which issues are worth getting annoyed about. The answer is: Only those that you can change and benefit from. As far as everything else is concerned: If you feel yourself getting angry, take a deep breath and count to 10 – and ideally then laugh about it. After all, laughing – unlike anger – is good for you.
As Reinhold Niebuhr said: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”
© Claudia Kraaz