Do you feel like you are mad all the time? Does rage rule your life, making you react to the simplest situations with violent thoughts or aggressive behavior? Or do you just often feel frustrated and irritated? These are all signs that you are letting anger run the show. Here are a few approaches to anger transformation that might help you keep your cool and enjoy life more.
It is important to note that this is not about “anger management.” Stuffing down any emotion, especially a volatile one like anger is not a way to create wholeness in your life. Anger is a natural emotional experience. The key is to find healthy ways to release anger, and to treat its root causes.
1. Remember to Breathe
When we start to see red it can be easy to jump into aggression and reactivity. Help yourself find equilibrium by focusing on your breath. Taking long, slow, deep breaths helps keep your nervous system balanced. It also supplies vital oxygen to your brain, which will help you make appropriate decisions about how to healthfully express your anger without being physically or verbally abusive.
Mind-body practices like Yoga and Qigong are invaluable for long-term anger treatment. They help us establish a new baseline of thoughtfulness and clarity, allowing us to see the root causes of anger and creative ways to express and release it. They can also help us recognize when we are caught in the negative thought loops that usually precede angry outbursts.
2. Practice Forgiveness
Chronic anger is often a symptom of our attachment to a past hurt or grievance. If you can learn to forgive yourself and other people, you can release a lot of this pent up resentment and experience more peace.
3. Do Something
Frustration or a feeling of hopelessness causes a lot of anger, but often we can do something about what angers us. Instead of focusing on how upset you are, funnel that energy into action. If you are angry about someone’s behavior, talk to them about it (once you have calmed down enough to have a civil conversation).
If it is a larger issue, write letters to your local newspaper or government official, start a petition, connect with your neighbors if it is an issue near your house – find a way to use your energy productively to change the situation that upsets you.
4. Talk It Out
Finding healthy outlets for your anger is sometimes the best medicine. Repressed anger can lead to outbursts of rage or cause preventable diseases. Take a non-violent communication (NVC) course to learn how to communicate your needs and frustrations to your loved ones in assertive but non-confrontational ways.
If your anger feels out of hand, you may benefit from working with a therapist. We are rarely angry for the reasons that we think. A qualified therapist can help us discover what is really causing our unhappiness. Sometimes it may be that we were abused or did not have our needs met when we were children, or there may be other buried trauma that comes out as anger.
5. Move Your Body
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, move energy, and release pent-up emotion. If your anger seems unrelated to any one specific cause it may actually stem from stagnation and repetitive thought loops. Exercise inspires deeper breathing and a clearer mind.
When you start to feel frustrated, go for a walk, turn on an aerobics video, or do some jumping jacks – anything to move the energy. Over time, frequent exercise lowers blood pressure and reduces stress levels, making us less likely to get unreasonably angry.
6. Love Your Liver
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), anger is connected to the liver. When we are overloaded with toxins, the liver can become stagnant and this backup can contribute to angry feelings. Keep your liver happy by avoiding coffee, alcohol, sugar, preservatives, and other toxins. Drink plenty of water everyday, and practice other lifestyle habits that support liver function.
7. Pay Attention
Sometimes anger is a sign that something is actually wrong in the present. Instead of fighting it or immediately acting on it, listen to your anger. What is it trying to tell you? Are you being mistreated in some way? Is the anger hiding something, like fear, disappointment, embarrassment, shame, or insecurity? Treat your anger like a flag, a signal to pay attention to all of your deep feelings in that moment. You may discover some gem of truth beneath the turmoil at your surface.
Anger is not something to be feared or ignored. At the same time, we do not want to let it carry us away, as unrestricted anger can be dangerous to our relationships, homes, work, and health. We need to find healthy ways to express anger, and discover and release the root causes of our volatile emotions.