Anger is probably one of the most unpleasant emotions we can experience. It just plain feels bad, and usually doesn't end with us acting like our best selves. However, finding successful ways to let go of anger can improves our lives most dramatically.
And according to some experts, anger is on the rise — especially among women. In an article for OWN Magazine, Mary Alvord, a psychologist and adjunct associate professor at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said that while women have always had an underappreciated share of work, "these days the expectations — that you're leaning in, plugged in, chipping in — are higher, while our network of support is smaller. It used to be that you had family and friends nearby, but that tribe is shrinking, because people are either just as busy as you are or too far away to help." Basically, we're more over-stretched than we've ever been, and that can lead to feeling angry more.
If you're feeling as though you spend too much of your life angry — either in general, as you curse under your breath at the person walking slowly in front of you, or you are struggling to let go of anger stemming from a particular event — here are seven tips that could help.
1. Give Yourself More Than A Minute
In that same article for OWN, Ronald Potter-Efron, author of Healing the Angry Brain, said: "People assume they're calm after 30 seconds of deep breathing. But our bodies don't recover that quickly. Though we may feel a pseudo calm, most people need at least 20 minutes to an hour to truly let the emotion pass. And as long as we're still amped up, it's easy to retrigger the anger that's just beneath the surface." So instead of saying you just "need a minute," and trying to rush through your calming techniques, actually take a real break. Go for a walk or hit the gym. You'll feel significantly better if you give yourself real time to re-center.
2. Practice Mindfulness More Regularly
Neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness, said that we can reprogram our brains to focus on the positive when angry feelings take hold. "Researchers have found that people who regularly practice mindfulness tend to have more neural connections in the regions of the brain associated with self-awareness — making them less likely to react negatively to frustrating situations." So when someone does something to majorly piss you off, think of something positive that also happened that day, or something you're looking forward to this weekend. It could seriously help control your negative thoughts.
3. Remember That It Will Pass, So Let Go Now
Tiny Buddha founder Lori Deschene compiled a list of the top reader tips for forgiving someone, even when it's hard. One reader wrote, "Understand this: whether you like it or not, over time, you will stop feeling the pain, so why hold on to something that’s going to away anyway?" This is especially helpful to keep in mind when dealing with anger over something super insignificant, like getting cut off in traffic. You already know this will not be something you remember tomorrow, so don't waste your energy being angry now.
4. Write It Down
In an article for The Huffington Post, professional psychologist and motivational writer Michelle Roya Rad said, "When you write, you can let go of your feelings. Write your feelings as they come, write to the person whom you have anger towards, and then burn the letter." This tip may sound kind of hokey, but I can personally vouch for it. I once wrote a very long, very involved angry email to someone outlining all the reasons I was angry, and for some reason, after I was done, I didn't feel the need to send it. Just writing out how I felt and "venting" was enough to calm me down and help me let go, and my relationship with that person was definitely better off because of it.
5. Spend More Time Doing What You Enjoy
Roya Rad also stated that it's important to spend time in your week doing what you enjoy. "These may be things like exercising, dancing, or doing some form of an artistic work or sports you enjoy, in addition to doing meditation, having hobbies, and doing something that takes your mind off of the stress." That way you'll have more of a "positive emotion reserve" to pull from when someone upsets you. So seriously, treat yourself!
6. Don't Take Things Personally
In an article for Everyday Health, Therese Borchard, founder of Beyond Blue, an organization dedicated to fighting depression and anxiety, noted that it's incredibly important to never take things personally — even when they seem personal. She cited renowned spiritual leader Don Miguel Ruiz's comment that, "Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in." This might seem a little hard to achieve when we're mad, but attempting to adopt this perspective when someone does something to upset us can help us detach ourselves from the situation, and simply let go and move on.
7. Remind Yourself That It's Only Hurting You
In an article for Psychology Today, psychotherapist Mark Sichel said that, "Living with resentment is like taking poison and expecting the other guy to get sick." He stressed that "If you're thinking about ways to get even and prove to another person that you're right and they're wrong, you need to remember that the person who is the focus of your animosity may be feeling just fine, enjoying life, and perhaps not at all troubled by any of the interactions that are renting space in your brain. Ultimately, resentment hurts you far more than the person toward whom you bear a grudge." When you realize that you're the one who suffers most from your negative emotions, it can be all the easier to let go.
Anger doesn't have to ruin your day, your week, or your year. Just remind yourself that in a lot of ways, the person who is most hurt by anger is you, and that there are a number of effective coping techniques for whenever you're feeling it get the best of you.