Imagine for a moment your angriest friend. Now focus on your angry friend in your minds eye for a moment. Look at their body and face. Think about how they walk. How they talk. Do they appear older than other people you know for their age?
OK, now consider characters in movies and think about the villains you know. Notice how they all seem to be angry or have a "hard look", you know, the run-through-the ringer, had a hard life, don't smile at me, haven't forgiven my parents kinda vibe?
Well, now science is showing there may be a reason why.
There are these things called Telomeres (why don't I remember these from 8th grade science?) which act as the aging clock in every cell. Their function is to protect the ends of chromosomes from sticking together, and protect genetic information from being lost during cell division.
Well, over time our telomeres get shorter as we age, which causes more information to get lost during normal cell divisions (cells are dividing all the time). This loss of genetic information is part of what ages us.
Scientists are now finding that prolonged feelings of anger and depressioncause telomeres to prematurely shorten, which in turn causes DNA information to get lost when cells divide, which in turn ages us prematurely.
Wha!?! So when they say you have an "ugly" attitude, who knew it was an actual thing! Your attitude actually changes your physical appearance and shortens your life. And if you're wondering why I chose the word attitude it's because your attitude is your settled way of thinking about things that is reflected in your behavior. So yeah, being angry or depressed (which I argue, are under your control) are part of your attitude, and overall world outlook.
Now that we understand that bad stress like anger prematurely ages us, what can we do about it?
A recent study set out to determine if self-directed message of love could help reduce feelings of anger. Participants were directed to record statements expressing love and appreciation of themselves in their own voices, inserting their names as the recipients of the messages. Participants listened to their recording for 2 min every morning, for 12 weeks, after which they reported feeling dramatically less angry.
I got to wondering, could a couple of simple love affirmations help you feel less anger, increase your lifespan, slow down your aging process, and actually make you more attractive? Affirmations definitely sound cheesy (I advise against having an audience when practicing an affirmation, or risk being labeled a self-improvement weirdo or worse... committed), but they are free to use and easy to do. Just skip your playground voice, and use your inner voice, and no one will be the wiser. Seriously though, affirmations are a great way to program your internal computer - your brain!
Sure, we all probably know by now that meditation is supposed to be good for us, but have you every tried meditating? Like other "healthy" lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise... it's friggin hard! Especially when my core desires are to eat frozen pizza, find the closest parking spot, and browse my facebook feed. Sooo.... in addition to exerting physical effort and sweating, and eating salads and watching carbs, now we're supposed to find a quiet place, clear our thoughts and just breathe for like 30 minutes! How can I clear my thoughts when all I'm thinking about is pizza and what's happening on Real Housewives?
OK, so I've bought into that it will make us more peaceful, but check this out... In this study Long Term Meditators (LTM) were evaluated next to Meditation Naive Participants (MNP - or Non-Meditators) and Meditators were found to be less neurotic and more attractive in their physical appearance than their Non-Meditating counterparts.
So that's pretty cool. They say you can start seeing the benefits of meditating in as little as 5 minutes a day, and if I can ditch my $65 eye cream and just breathe for 5 minutes a day, I can do that. There are literally tons of cool meditation apps now available, and in fact self-care is one of the hottest growing app segments - consumers spent over $32 million on self-care apps in 2018.
Perhaps one of the best antidotes for anger is gratitude. You simply can't be angry when your heart is filled with the feelings of thankfulness and appreciation - the two cannot co-exist at the same time. So how do you become more filled with gratitude?
Make a list of all of the things you are thankful for by focusing on the good things you have. We tend to take our situation for granted - a lot. I get back pain from time to time, and it's so easy for me to think about how I wish I wasn't in pain at when I'm really hurting. It's in those times that I tell myself, gosh, you should take a moment to thank your body for all the good it does for you when you are not in pain, so you can appreciate just a regular day.
But maybe you need help healing from a past trauma. Here's a great link to a gratitude meditation from the Chopra Center if you're looking for help processing a painful experience.
So your attitude, which you control, can make you physically ugly and shorten your life. Some therapy-free cheap techniques to help you deal with your anger include reciting positive affirmations a few times day and night, meditating on your breath for 5 minutes at night before going to bed, and practicing gratitude by reviewing some of the good things in your life.