Is Venting Really Healthy?
BY: Joachim Stoeber
You’ve just had a fight with your spouse, and you’re steaming. You decide to call a friend to vent. But before you grab the phone, consider this: Venting is likely to make you feel worse.
In a recent study, my colleagues and I asked 149 college students how they dealt with stress over the course of three to 14 days and how satisfied they felt during those days. We found that expressing your unhappiness, venting, denying, blaming yourself or withdrawing only enhances your negative perception of what happened and is more likely to put you in a bad mood than other coping tools like positive reframing, acceptance and humor. On the other hand, seeing things in a positive light was especially effective at preventing a bad day.
So the next time you feel the urge to vent, consider switching gears and trying one of the following positive coping strategies instead:
• Give it a new spin. Looking at the mishap from a fresh perspective helps you find the good that came out of it. For instance, maybe the argument with your partner helped you realize his or her true priorities.
• Look for the humor in the situation. If you can find anything funny -- maybe your spouse was spraying saliva when he was angry -- you’ll put yourself in a better mood.
• Remind yourself that ruminating over something in the past, even the recent past, is fruitless. Tell yourself that what’s done is done. When I’m in a stressful situation, I ask myself whether it’s big or small. Usually, it’s something small. Then I remind myself, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
*As told to Winnie Yu
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Joachim Stoeber is a reader and head of the school of psychology at the University of Kent, U.K., and a guest blogger for Live Right Live Well.