Anger as a Risk Factor

We all get angry. We all lose our temper. But do you know how this affects your body? Let’s look at the science of anger.

When we get angry our bodies are flooded with stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which trigger the fight or flight response. This means our muscles tense up, digestion stops, and blood pressure increases. Severe anger also suppresses our ability to think clearly.

The body’s response to anger, much like stress, isn’t a bad thing if it’s just now and then. It becomes a problem, however, when it’s chronic. Chronic anger is linked to:

  • headaches, digestive issues, insomnia, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and skin problems

Elevated cortisol causes all kinds of problems. Too much cortisol decreases serotonin levels, which can lead to depression. It also causes loss of neurons in the prefrontal cortex, which slows down brain coordination and makes problem solving more difficult. And it kills and suppresses neurons in the hippocampus. Suppressed activity in the hippocampus weakens short-term memory and prevents you from properly forming new memories (perhaps why everyone’s version of the same argument will be a bit different).


It’s healthy to feel angry sometimes, but excessive focus on negative thoughts trains your brain to be angry more often. Your frontal lobe decides what’s important based on the amount of time and attention you give to it. The more you focus on negative thoughts, the more neurons and synapses your brain will make to support that negativity. Conversely, happy thoughts decrease cortisol and produce serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. In general, happy people are more creative, solve problems faster, and are more mentally alert.

When learning to control and manage anger, it’s really important to learn to recognize the difference between things you can change, and things you can’t. My plane was delayed, which caused me to miss my connection. Was I ticked off? You bet. But as I watched the gate agent, who also had no control over the delay, being yelled at by an irate passenger, I decided to take a different, calmer approach. At the end of the day I arrived 3 hours later than planned, had time to catch up on a few emails, and finished a pretty good book while waiting for my next flight. I could have stewed and yelled and spent the afternoon angry, but what would have been the point? Letting go of negative feelings can be tough, but it’s soooo important.

Not making assumptions (I am so guilty of this) is another important one to remember. In the age of texting and emailing, tone and intent are often misunderstood. It’s important to get clarity when you need it. Pick up the phone and talk it out when you need to. If your friend/partner/spouse is short tempered with you, don’t assume they are angry with you. Ask if something is wrong or if they had a tough day. Some people don’t even realize they’re being rude or snappy until it’s pointed out.

Slow it down…. Take a breath, take a walk, close your eyes for a moment; whatever it takes to help you feel calmer. Then address whatever made you feel angry in a calm, rational manner.


Dig deep… Often times we’re holding on to anger that has nothing to do with whatever set us off in the moment. Anger begets anger. If it’s right there under the surface, it won’t be hard to find a trigger for it. Dig a little deeper and figure out how to let it go.

Practice compassion – with yourself and with others. Intolerance can lead to an increase in anger. Accept that we’re all different, and as much as you might want everyone around you to be your version of perfect, that’s just not going to happen. We all walk around with our own baggage, ideas, ideals, and grievances. Trying to see things from someone else’s point of view can often help you understand more and leave you feeling less angry.


Exercise! Regular exercise helps improve mood and reduce stress. Exercise also helps burn up stress chemicals in the body and boosts production of mood regulating neurotransmitters. It’s also just feels good to release extra energy from the body. Being angry sends more energy to your muscles…use that energy to do something good for your body.

exercise runner

If you really struggle with controlling your anger, consider conflict resolution training, talk to a counselor, learn the art of meditation, or practice mindful yoga. All of these can help bring you into a greater state of peace and balance.

And remember, smiling is infectious. Even if you don’t feel like it…smile. It’s really hard not to feel a little better (and make everyone else around you feel good too) when you look so darn happy.



Anger – How it Affects People.

Seeing Red: Anger Management.

The Deadly Effects of Anger on Your Health and Mind.

Happy Brain, Happy Life.

Reducing Our Carbon Footprint



My “carbon footprint” – a nice way to say “how much I’m polluting”.

Whether you believe in climate change or not…it’s happening. While I concede that climate change is a natural process, we must accept our role and responsibility in accelerating the changes faster than the earth is able to adapt. Each and every one of us has a carbon footprint. Let’s take a look at how we can do our part to reduce ours, and help educate others about doing the same.

Driving: It’s convenient, it’s easy, and it’s quick. But if you have the option, consider biking, walking, taking public transport, or carpooling. Think how great you’ll feel after biking to the store; not only have you gotten fresh air and exercise, you probably didn’t even have to yell at anyone for being a terrible driver!

If you must drive, plan your trip so that you’re as efficient as possible. For example, stop at the grocery store on the way home from work instead of making a separate trip, or map out the most efficient route to run errands. I highly recommend stopping at the florist on your way home from work to surprise your partner with flowers 🙂

And drive smart; accelerating quickly wastes gas and releases more carbon into the air. Consider a fuel-efficient vehicle, or swap family cars so that the person with the longest commute takes the more efficient car. This will save you money on gas too! Speaking of saving money, keeping your tires inflated to the recommended levels and getting regular oil changes and tune-ups will also increase your fuel efficiency, not to mention extend the life of your car.

Home: Make sure your home is well insulated. This will cut down on your energy use and bills. It helps with noisy neighbors too! You can help by closing blinds or curtains during the hottest part of the day to keep out the sun in the summer months, and opening them to let in the sun during the winter.

When you replace appliances, look for the Energy Star rating. There are plenty of affordable appliances these days that are much more energy efficient than they used to be. Turn off lights and televisions when you leave the room, and instead of setting the AC to 65, use a fan to help you feel cooler. Misting a little peppermint oil into the room will help cool it down as well.

While solar panels can be cost prohibitive for many people, if you live in a place with lots of sunshine and favorable laws towards solar power, it might be worth the upfront cost. Some areas even let you sell energy back to the grid!

Food: Eat locally grown and organic food as much as possible, and focus on eating things that are in season close to where you live. Check out your local farmer’s market to see what’s growing! Remember – the longer the food has to travel, the more fuel it takes to get it to you.

Organic fruits and vegetables have become much more widely available. Unfortunately, many come from thousands of miles away. I often opt for locally grown food that does not have the organic label over organically labeled foods from overseas. If you’re worried about pesticide residue, check out this list of foods and how they rank from EWG:

Start your own garden, or get in on a community garden and grow some of the things you love most. I live in a townhouse, but you better believe I have pots lining the driveway loaded with herbs and hot peppers. Nothing tastes better than something you’ve grown yourself. It’s a fact 😉

Limit the amount of beef and dairy you consume. Both of these take immense amounts of resources, especially land and water, to raise and process.

Make Smart Choices: Instead of buying packs and packs of water bottles, buy a water filter and refill a stainless, glass, or BPA free water bottle. If you really want to impress people, check out these amazing glass bottles made right here in the good old USA:  Water your lawn/garden early in the morning or late in the evening when less evaporation occurs, and be sure to set a rain delay so you’re not over-watering.

Buy energy efficient lightbulbs, and environmentally friendly cleaners and detergents. It’s amazing how useful baking soda and vinegar can be! Consider wool dryer balls instead of fabric sheets…they help cut down on drying time, leave your clothes feeling soft, and don’t leave any of that chemical residue that dryer sheets do. And you can use the same set again and again. I get mine from an awesome family farm in NC:

Reduce-Reuse-Recycle: Buy products with minimal packaging, keep reusable bags in the car for shopping, and recycle whenever possible. Use plastic bags as garbage bags, or old yogurt containers for storage or organizing. Get creative. And if you’re unsure what to do with something, ask a child – they often have great ideas for using things as toys or for projects. Once you start, you’ll see that it can be pretty fun!

Accept Responsibility: Most importantly, accept responsibility for your contribution to pollution. Do your best, but don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect.

If there are changes you can make, make them. If you have friends and family members you can educate, educate them.

And when you’re out and about in nature, thank Mother Earth for all she provides you. A healthy planet means healthy soil, air, and water. We need all three to survive, and we’re not doing a great job protecting them. Without her strength and resiliency, we would have gone extinct years ago.