Take it from Buddha, the Master of zen.
He said, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
So, why hold on to the miserable feeling? It will do you no good.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should not be angry. Anger is natural because it alerts us that we’re feeling something that we likely don’t want to be feeling.
However, it can be destructive when you don’t know how to express it properly. There’s a huge risk that you will be consumed by it and lose the ability to think clearly.
Think of self-combustion. Now, that’s not a pretty sight, isn’t it?
So here are 14 tried-and-true methods for letting go of your anger before it can get the best of you:
1. Recognize the source of your anger.
Recognize the reason why you are angry and try to determine the cause.
Ask yourself if the cause is something that you can control or is it out of your hands?
Is it caused by a person, a family member/friend or someone who you will never see again, such as a grocery clerk or a server at a restaurant?
The best strategy to implement is to express your anger directly in a calm and appropriate tone. Next is to restructure your thoughts, relax, and get out of the situation.
2. Practice relaxation techniques.
Using simple relaxation techniques can help in soothing your angry feelings.
If you learn and practice these strategies often, it’s easier for you to control your emotions.
Because there are a lot of relaxation techniques out there, you have to find which one works best for you.
Master Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh recommends to practice “awareness of the body” to release tension.
All it involves is a body scan where you turn your focus to each of your body parts one by one. As you’re going through the body, release any tension and simply try to relax.
Here’s how Thich Nhat Hanh recommends practising “awareness of the body”:
“Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. When you practice mindful breathing, the quality of your in-breath and out-breath will be improved. There is more peace and harmony in your breathing, and if you continue to practice like that, the peace and the harmony will penetrate into the body, and the body will profit.”
“So next time you’re stopped at a red light, you might like to sit back and practice the fourth exercise: “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body. Breathing out, I release the tension in my body.” Peace is possible at that moment, and it can be practiced many times a day—in the workplace, while you are driving, while you are cooking, while you are doing the dishes, while you are watering the vegetable garden. It is always possible to practice releasing the tension in yourself.”
To learn more eastern philosophy techniques to calm down and live a peaceful life, check out Hack Spirit’s most popular eBook: The No-Nonsense Guide to Using Buddhism and Eastern Philosophy for a Better Life.
3. Take a brief time out.
When you feel that anger is building up inside you, take a brief time out.
If you’re talking to someone, simply excuse yourself. You can walk away and take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and release negative emotions.
A lot of people say things they don’t mean when they’re mad. So take this time to think about how you want to respond before you speak.
After you successfully calm down, consider what you will say when you return. Doing so will prevent you from saying something out of anger that you might regret later.
4. Get daily exercise.
Sometimes, the cause of our anger is stress. When stress gets piled up, we become very irritable, thus we get angry immediately.
One of the most effective ways to reduce your anger and stress is to get daily exercise. Physical exercise, such as walking and running, gives you a chance to release your emotions.
Exercise also increases the release of endorphins in our body, according to a study. Thus, it will naturally make you feel better and reduce your stress levels.
According to Harvard Health, exercise works because it reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
“Regular aerobic exercise will bring remarkable changes to your body, your metabolism, your heart, and your spirits. It has a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress. It’s a common experience among endurance athletes and has been verified in clinical trials that have successfully used exercise to treat anxiety disorders and clinical depression. If athletes and patients can derive psychological benefits from exercise, so can you.” – Harvard Health Publishing
5. Find workable solutions.
Do not focus on whatever triggered your anger. Instead, you can work on finding a solution to the issue at hand.
Instead of staying angry, why not try to do something about it? The best way is to find a workable solution to the things that make you angry.
Also, you have to recognize the things that are out of your control. Sometimes, there are things that you cannot change and you just have to accept that.
If you know what you can control, you can use your limited energy effectively. The time you waste trying to change situations that are out of your control can only make you frustrated.
Otherwise, focusing on the things which you have control over will allow you to make progress.
6. Don’t hold grudges.
According to Hope College researchers, holding grudges results in negative effects on the body. Thus, it can damage you more than it can damage the other person.
They not only take up your energy, but they also make your emotional state toxic.
Every time you get offended, try to take an empathic perspective. In short, put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
When you think of forgiving thoughts, it will help decrease your anger.
Here’s a great quote from Daniel Goleman on the power of empathy to expand our world:
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.” – Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
7. Practice forgiveness.
“To err is human, to forgive is divine.” – Alexander Pope
Forgiveness means making an active decision to let go of resentful feelings and thoughts of revenge.
When you successfully do this, your anger will be released and you will have peace of mind.
I am not saying that the pain will go away but forgiveness will set you free from the bitter control of the incident or person who caused you harm.
Bob Enright, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who pioneered the study of forgiveness three decades ago, says that forgiveness can help build your self-esteem:
“When people are beaten down by injustice, you know who they end up not liking? Themselves…When you stand up to the pain of what happened to you and offer goodness to the person who hurt you, you change your view of yourself.”
Remember that when you forgive, you are not doing it for their sake. Rather, you are doing it for you – so you can regain control of your life and move on.
This doesn’t mean though that you are being a pushover. It just means peace is more important for you than holding grudges.
8. Own your anger.
In order to control your anger, you need to acknowledge it first. By doing so, you learn how to control it before it starts to control you.
To do this, you need to accept the emotion first. Remind yourself that you are strong enough to control and get over it.
Remember that you can choose between making it worse and make it disappear. It will only get as bad as you allow it to.
It is up to you to own your anger and address it in order to move on. Needless to say, you are the only one who can control your own feelings.
“…feelings like disappointment, embarrassment, irritation, resentment, anger, jealousy, and fear, instead of being bad news, are actually very clear moments that teach us where it is that we’re holding back. They teach us to perk up and lean in when we feel we’d rather collapse and back away. They’re like messengers that show us, with terrifying clarity, exactly where we’re stuck. This very moment is the perfect teacher, and, lucky for us, it’s with us wherever we are.” Master Buddhust Pema Chödrön
(To learn how to be mentally tough in the face of your anger, check out my eBook on the art of resilience here)
9. Talk to a friend.
This is the time to reach out to a trusted friend who will listen to you without judgment. You can let out your anger and frustrations to them and get their feedback and advice.
Oftentimes, a friend can present to you the other side of the coin. You can get a different perspective and good advice that you can follow.
Sometimes, venting it to a friend who listens can take the anger away. You just need to talk so you can get your feelings out.
However, keep it brief, sort out your thoughts, and focus on a solution.
10. Express yourself through writing
Writing about your anger will help you understand your feelings. Through writing, you can process your thoughts thoroughly and carefully.
Once you identify what made you angry, you can now start analyzing how to respond. When you write about your anger, you can learn from it which can lead to greater self-awareness.
If you are into drawing or painting, you can also express your anger through these mediums.
So get your paints and pens and draw what your anger looks like to you. By expressing yourself in a creative way, it will help yourself move on.
11. Change your environment/situation
Sometimes your immediate surroundings are the main cause of your anger. It weighs you down and makes you feel trapped.
A perfect example is when you notice your anger being triggered with morning rush.
If rushing around during the mornings and trying to get everyone up and ready for the day, is what makes you made then that situation is controllable.
You can try to find a way to reduce this stress by preparing things the night before. That way, you can lighten your load in the morning.
12. Avoid the person who causes you pain.
Avoid people who hurt you. Instead, surround yourself with positive people who lift you up and empower you to feel good about yourself.
Take control over your emotions by staying away from other people who try to negatively affect your feelings.
13. Use a stress-relief tool.
If you need to vent out your anger physically, you can use a stress-relief tool. They can be used as preventative measures, or in the moment to calm you down.
There’s no need to buy one if you can turn your focus onto something to channel your aggression. That way, you will be able to reduce your feelings of anger.
But if you’re really into it, this stress buster punching ball can help you release the anger physically. You can strike it, again and again, to ease the stress until you are feeling calm again.
If you want something with positive affirmations, you can get these stress balls with motivational quotes to remind you that you can control your emotions.
14. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Sometimes, we get mad because of very small things. Most of the time, they are minor inconveniences that are out of our control.
The next time you find yourself boiling in anger, remember that your happiness is largely impacted by your ability to let things go. Let it go if it’s not important.
If someone jumped in front of you in line, don’t fuss over this minor event and make a scene. Always pick your battles and allow your happiness to overcome your mild frustrations.
Science says that anger affects us mentally and physically.
When you start changing your mindset and letting go of bottled up anger, you can free yourself from the pain.
Take a small step each day to reverse your anger habits.
Not only will you feel relieved, but you will also experience the peace you’re looking for.
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