Benefits of Venting for Your Health

Benefits of Venting for Your Health

The Power of Venting: Is It Good or Bad for You?

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Venting – the release of negative, pent-up emotions – can feel good. But is it actually good for you? Or does it do more harm than good to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings?

Experts say that depends on a number of factors, including who’s on the receiving end of a venting session, how often a person does it, and what type of feedback they receive. “By and large, we do need to get our negative emotions out,” said Rachel Millstein, a staff psychologist in the behavioral medicine program and the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “The ways we do it, though, that’s where it’s healthy or unhealthy, productive or unproductive.”

Why Vent?

Personal relationships, work, finances, and discrimination are just some of the daily stressors that may fuel someone’s need to vent. Research shows that this kind of stress can raise the risk for cardiovascular disease, whereas releasing or managing stress can improve physical and psychological health, lowering that risk. Having a strong social support network has been linked to better psychological health.

Venting to people in that network is one way to reduce the impact of daily stressors. “Calling a friend and letting it out can be helpful. It helps us feel connected to our social support networks, which is a big determinant of life satisfaction and overall well-being,” says Millstein.

Choose Your Audience Wisely

Speaking to someone who is supportive of your feelings can be helpful, even if that person offers a different perspective. However, venting to someone who is dismissive of your feelings can be detrimental. “It’s invalidating to share and get no response from the other person. It might make you feel like you don’t have worth or are not lovable,” warns Jonathan Shaffer, an associate professor of clinical health psychology at the University of Colorado in Denver.

Venting can also be counter-productive if the listener amplifies negative feelings and “the conversation spirals. Then you can pull each other down,” adds Millstein. Another negative consequence could be if the listener gets tired of listening. “If you vent over and over again, this person might not want to be present, and this can fray a social connection,” she explains. For major stressors, it might be more helpful to speak to a therapist.

Venting Without an Audience

If speaking feelings aloud to someone else feels unsafe, another alternative is to write them down. Studies have found numerous health benefits to expressive writing, the practice of writing down feelings on a daily basis. It has been shown to aid in healing from traumatic experiences and to help lower blood pressure, boost the immune system, improve sleep, and lessen depression and pain.

Don’t Forget the Positive

Whether releasing feelings on paper or in person, Shaffer suggests finding ways to focus on the positive, as well as the negative. For example, ending a venting session with a focus on things for which the person is grateful can help restore positive feelings, he says, as can mindfulness practices. “Make a plan for some type of relaxation, such as deep breathing or meditation afterwards,” he suggests.

Other Ways to Relieve Stress

Exercise can also relieve stress and release negative feelings. “And don’t forget that humor is a really good coping strategy too,” adds Millstein. Venting to a friend with a good sense of humor may be twice as helpful because “sometimes other people can help us see the funny side of things.”

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In conclusion, venting has its benefits when done in a healthy and productive way. It allows individuals to release their negative emotions and reduce the impact of daily stressors. However, it is important to choose the right audience, seek support from a supportive and empathetic listener, and not spiral into amplifying negative thoughts and feelings. Venting without an audience, such as through expressive writing, can also be a helpful alternative. Additionally, focusing on the positive and practicing relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and mindfulness, can restore positive feelings and well-being. Ultimately, finding other ways to relieve stress, such as exercise and humor, can also contribute to a healthier and happier life. So go ahead and vent, but remember to do it wisely and with a positive mindset.