Don't be an angry bird: Find out how a chair, a pair of sunglasses and other items can hold unexpected promise for taming your temper.
By Leslie Goldman
1. Take A Seat -- Right Now
There's a reason you've probably never gotten into a screaming match from a beanbag chair. "Over time, our brains become conditioned to associate sitting and lying down with feeling relaxed," says W. Robert Nay, PhD, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School. That's why it's so easy to pass out on an airplane, even when you didn't think you were tired.
From an evolutionary perspective, the brain is hardwired to associate an upright position with threat: When you're standing and arguing, adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol start coursing in an effort to help you flee and the next thing you know, your heart is racing, your voice is rising, and you're suddenly a crazy angry person. Sitting down, Nay says, sends a message of safety and security to your brain. "No organism on earth sits back when threatened," he explains. So the next time a conversation starts to make your blood boil, pull up a chair and take a load off.
2. Don't Get Mad, Get Organized
A study of nearly 11,000 subjects in 42 countries about to be presented at the Western Psychological Association in Portland, Oregon, found that the key to reining in anger is preventing it in the first place. The research, conducted at the University of the South Pacific on laidback Fiji, surprised us. But the study's authors say simple steps like maintaining an updated to-do list or spending a few minutes every morning to map out your day will go far in lowering anger and anxiety levels. The theory: Effective time management keeps you on track, circumventing stress.
3. Keep Your Cool With A Pair Of Shades
Research published this year in the journal Cognition & Emotion found that when people walk in direct sun sans sunglasses, the light-induced frowning actually causes them to feel P.O.'d. Although most beachcombers reported being unaffected by all that squinting, those who were asked to walk unshaded against the rays (as opposed to with the sun at their backs) had increased aggressiveness scores on subsequent tests. Simply looking angry translates into feeling that way, too. Study co-author Daniele Marzoli, PhD, suggests seeking shade during heated exchanges: "Compared to indoor conversations, outdoor conversations could lead to more hostile interactions because of the anger-intensifying effects of the sun's glare." Or use it as an excuse to don your new pair of aviators -- you might just ground an altercation before it takes off.
4. Tame PMS Fury With A Paella Recipe
When women struggling with the tension, irritability and mood swings of PMS were given capsules containing either saffron or a placebo twice a day for two menstrual cycles, those in the saffron group saw their symptoms drop significantly, even within the first cycle. The carrot-hued spice -- a key ingredient in Spanish paella -- has been used since ancient times to treat everything from depression to upset bellies. Schedule a weekly tapas night for a potential subtle boost or talk to your doctor about trying a supplement. Más delicioso: One of paella's star ingredients is seafood, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to slash PMS symptoms -- not just the mental effects, like anxiety and poor concentration, but bloating, headache and breast tenderness, too.