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4 Ways Expressing Yourself Boosts Your Health

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After finally building up the courage to ask for a raise, you set up a meeting with your boss only to be told that there’s no more room in the budget—even though you heard he managed to secure a pretty hefty bonus for himself this year.

While your instinct is probably to bite your tongue, a smarter move may be to (gently) express your anger by saying something like, “That’s disappointing to hear, especially because…” before detailing some of your accomplishments. The reason: Suppressing anger during negotiations can make you lose focus, putting you at a disadvantage, Australian researchers report.

That’s not the only time bottling up your emotions can be counterproductive. As you’ll see from the benefits below, there are some serious upsides to productively expressing your emotions instead of internalizing them. (Not sure how exactly to do that? Learn The Healthy Way to Deal with Anger.)

It staves off future stress
In one study, people who suppressed their feelings of tension while working on an anxiety-provoking math problem had lower blood pressure in the moment than those who outwardly expressed their emotions. But it caught up with them later on—the next time they were confronted with a stressor, the people who tried to keep their cool experienced a much larger blood pressure spike than those who let it out right away, according to Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers. (Check out 5 Surprising Ways Stress Affects Your Workout.)

It makes you less aggressive
‘Fess up: You, like the rest of us, have gotten a little too, um, emotional after that second or third cocktail at least once in your life. Turns out, finding a healthy way to vent feelings of anger or frustration during the day can prevent a case of the drunk-cries at night. People who said they tend to bottle up their anger were about 5 percent more likely to be violent or aggressive when they hit the bottle, report Norwegian researchers. (Read about 7 Things Calm People Do Differently in addition to drinking sans sobbing.)

It boosts pain tolerance
When something hurts, we often instinctively try to ignore it and power through. But in fact, acknowledging and expressing your hurt can increase your pain tolerance, a study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine found. Holding in anger can cause headaches too. (Here’s what else Your Headache is Trying to Tell You.) And feel free to really let loose—an earlier study found that swearing really can take the edge off an ache.

It can lengthen your life
People who tend to suppress their emotions may have a slightly higher risk of early death, especially from cancer, according to a 12-year study. The researchers say that people who repress their feelings may wind up turning to unhealthy outlets for the emotions, like alcohol, drugs, or smoking. (These 11 Things Could Shorten Your Life, too.)

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