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Feeling angry? Jot it down on paper and throw it away: Nagoya University confirms calming effect through experiments


When we are having a bad day, we may get frustrated, take our anger out on something, and then gain a sense of self-loathing because of it. To prevent this from happening, various anger management techniques have been proposed. Some techniques, such as reevaluation and self-distancing, have been proven to control emotions and suppress anger. However, they are difficult to implement when we are actually angry. Therefore, there have been no simple and effective anger suppression techniques developed to date.

A research group led by Professor Nobuyuki Kawai and Doctoral Student Yuta Kanaya (at the time of the research) of Nagoya University Graduate School of Informatics has revealed that we can make our anger disappear using a simple method: writing whatever it is that we are mad about on a piece of paper and throwing it into a trash can. This work was published in Scientific Reports.

Physically disposing of a piece of paper containing your angry thoughts in a shredder (left) effectively neutralizes the anger, whereas putting in a plastic box (right) does not.
Provided by Nagoya University

At Hiyoshi Shrine in Aichi Prefecture, people write the thoughts that they want to get rid of on a special plate. By breaking the plate at a certain spot on the shrine's grounds, they can free themselves of unwanted feelings. In a similar fashion, the research group showed that writing about an infuriating situation on a piece of paper and then scrunching it up and throwing it away can help subside anger. Shredding the paper can achieve the same result.

In the experiment, the participants wrote some documents and were given low ratings for them. This led to higher anger scores among participants compared with when they were at rest. Participants who then objectively wrote down their feelings of anger about the situation on paper and threw it in the trash reduced their anger scores to the same level as when they were at rest. However, anger scores among participants who kept the paper intact were higher than when they had been at rest. The same results were confirmed in an experiment in which paper was shredded instead of being thrown in the trash.

This technique can be applied to control anger in the moment by writing down your feelings on paper and then discarding it. It can be used when you feel angry in workplace settings, for example. Going forward, the research group plans to verify whether the same effect as that of paper can be achieved with digital media such as e-mail and electronic files.

Journal Information
Publication: Scientific Reports
Title: Anger is eliminated with the disposal of a paper written because of provocation
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-024-57916-z

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd. ( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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