Killing Yourself With Kindness

By Danielle Braff

Miss Manners may favor a nod and a smile over angry tirades, but it turns out that pretending everything’s OK may not be so good for your health. A recent study published in Psychosom measured tightness in the lower back muscles of disgruntled participants. Those who swallowed their anger and faked a smile had the worst tightening and took the longest to recover. That’s because “anger is the emotion that traditionally precedes fighting a threat,” says Stephen Bruehl from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. “Your body tenses up the muscles to prepare to attack,” he says. But in today’s world, arguments aren’t resolved with physical violence, so your body never releases those tight muscles. Next time you get mad, be honest about your feelings. If you can’t voice them to the perpetrator, then write them down in your journal—that should do the trick.