Drs. Sandler and Nicholson Approved This Article

Good and bad strategies for getting your rage under control

Published April 3, 2024

Take a deep breath, we have some news that might upset you. 

Are you calm? For real? Okay. Here goes.

Rage rooms aren’t good for you.

Even if you’re not a connoisseur, you probably know what’s up with rage rooms. Choose from a menu of options–breaking dinnerware, computer monitors, lamps, and other household items, or maybe you’d rather splash paint or throw axes. Then smash, bash, chuck, and bust at will, with materials and safety gear provided, all for a half-hourly rate. 

The facilities first popped up in Japan during the 2008 financial crisis (remember that?), and they’ve been growing more popular ever since. Whether you call ‘em “wreck-rooms,” “smash-rooms,” or (confusingly) “break-rooms,” they’re quite the thing. Some companies even offer their employees “destructotherapy” sessions, hoping the stress relief will result in better collaboration and productivity. 

But it doesn’t really feel healthy, right? If you’ve had that nagging feeling, you can find plenty of science to back it up. In a 2023 interview with El País, clinical psychologist Violeta Alcocer said that rage-room popularity tells us other things about society: it lays bare “the normalization of dysfunctional emotional coping strategies, which amounts to a failure in the emotional education of the population.” Ouch.

Even worse, a recently-released meta-study of more than 10,000 participants determined that no physical activities will help turn down your rage gauge. If you’ve been hitting the track, the bike path, or the punching bag… well, hey, at least you’re getting exercise. But anger causes high levels of “physiological arousal”–you know, increased heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, and sweating–and physical activity increases those things too. Indeed, the study showed that exercise tends to amp-up anger, instead of calming it down. 

So what does work? Well, you’ve gotta get those vital signs down, which points to the activities you’d probably expect: deep breathing, yoga, meditation, and nature hikes. If you’re doing it right, you’ll greet your angry feelings with more “om,” and less “ohmygod I have to hit something.”

As a meta-study, the research was well positioned to show that the results are accurate across the board. In labs and in the real world, in group and individual sessions, online and offline, regardless of age and race and gender and ability and criminal-offender status, every study shows that lowering your anger… um, lowers your anger.

(One notable exception: Playing sports and doing group gym classes. Probably because playing group sports–or, you know, playing in general–evokes positive emotions.)

So the next time you’re raging mad and you wanna smash a bottle–if you’re not gonna hurt anybody and if you plan to clean it up–then go for it. But once you get that urge out of your system, you know, there’s a reason why humans have been sniffing flowers for so long. Calm yourself!