Don’t write this off as a useless hack.

Jotting down your angry feelings on a piece of paper and then tearing them up has more than just a dramatic effect — it can help you feel better, researchers from the Graduate School of Informatics at Nagoya University in Japan said. 

“We expected that our method would suppress anger to some extent,” lead researcher Nobuyuki Kawai said in a Nagoya University press release.

“However, we were amazed that anger was eliminated almost entirely,” Kawai added. 

Researchers spent years compiling data on how writing can help reduce anger and how interacting with physical objects has an impact on mood, before publishing their findings in the journal Scientific Reports. 

In this particular project, Kawai and his graduate student Yuta Kanaya asked study participants to write down their opinions on social issues like whether or not smoking in public should be illegal. They said that doctoral students would be evaluating their writing. 

Doctoral students enlisted in the study were instructed to write the same insulting comment on the student’s work such as, “I cannot believe an educated person would think like this. I hope this person learns something while at the university.”

The students were then handed back their writing with the offensive comments scribbled on it. They were then asked to write about how they felt in response to the negative commentary. 

The researchers asked some participants to throw the paper in the trash after writing their responses and another group was instructed to keep the paper in a file at their desk. A third group was asked to put the paper in a plastic box or through a paper shredder. 

The students were asked to evaluate their anger levels after receiving negative comments as well as after they either kept or disposed of their written responses.

The study found the students who threw out their responses or shredded the paper felt less angry and bounced back to their baseline emotional state. Those who kept a file of the angry comments only had a small reduction in anger afterward, the researchers said.

Kawai said that this research could be used to help people in stressful situations in the workplace or elsewhere. 

“This technique could be applied in the moment by writing down the source of anger as if taking a memo and then throwing it away when one feels angry in a business situation,” he said. 

Kawai said the study findings are not unlike the Japanese tradition of hakidashisara, which means the purging or disposal of a plate. During the annual hakidashisara festival at the Hiyoshi Shrine outside of Nagoya, people smash discs to get their anger out and report feeling relieved after the event. 

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