Use Mindful Approaches to Ease Anger

If you find that you’re excessively or often angry and want to get your emotions under control, the following exercises have some practical, mindful ways of managing your anger. Give them a try and see if they work for you. They’re based on being mindful: nonjudgmental, curious, kind and taking a step back from the experience.

Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly helps you to become more aware of your internal world. You notice the bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions and behaviors leading up to and during your feelings of anger. Inner experiences seem to slow down allowing you to notice what’s going on, instead of suddenly feeling very angry.

You can then make a more informed choice about how to deal with your anger. You may choose to express it or you may choose to do something else.

Have you tried meditating? What effect has it had on your anger?

Anger and your body

The next time anger arises for you, feel the sensations in your body. Notice as much as you can. Does your heart beat faster? Do you feel hotter? Do your hands tremble? What happens to your breathing rate? Does your entire body feel more tense?

By bringing a sense of curiosity to your experience, you begin to stop fighting with the emotion, which just adds fuel to the anger flame. Bring a kindness and warmth to the feeling — as if you’re concerned about your own baby. This approach is called practicing non-reactivity in your body. Record your observations.

What did you observe? What effect did this approach have?

Anger and your thoughts

When you’re next angry, notice the kind of hot thoughts arising in your mind. What are you thinking? Are you experiencing lots of ‘should have’ or ‘it’s not fair’ types of thoughts? Are you swearing in your mind, or out loud?

Become curious about your thoughts. See if you can imagine them on clouds floating past. Or if you prefer, imagine them on leaves floating by in a stream, or on the carriages of a train travelling past you.

What did you observe? What effect did this thought experiment have? What did you discover about your judgments?

Anger and your emotions

During an anger episode, try to note what emotions you’re feeling, exactly. Are you experiencing any other feelings apart from anger? Do you feel scared or threatened? Where do you feel the emotion in your body? How is the emotion changing, if at all, from moment to moment? What happens if you feel the sensation together with your breathing?

What did you observe? What effect did this approach have?

Anger and your behavior

The next time you’re angry, make the effort to try and notice your behavior. How are you acting? What are you saying? How is your body moving? What does your tone of voice sound like? How is your behavior different to other times?

What happens when you watch your behavior with curiosity?

Here are five mindful tips for managing your anger:

  • Communicate: If someone has caused you to feel angry, communicating with them effectively is key. When the full force of the anger has dissolved a little, try to say things like, ‘I felt this when you behaved like this,’ instead of ‘You have done this,’ and so on. Doing so means that you’re taking responsibility for your own feelings rather than accusing others.

    Your tone of voice has a stronger effect that your words. If you speak in an angry tone, the other person is likely to react angrily, leading to rising anger levels rather than a reasonable conversation. Speak softly rather than with anger if you can.

  • Don’t expect to change straight away: Managing anger is a difficult process, so be patient with yourself. Forgive yourself when you go back to your usual automatic patterns. You can’t expect to change the habits of a lifetime in a few weeks or months.

  • Be mindful in your everyday life: Notice things, people and your own thoughts and feelings. When you do, you’re more likely to notice when anger arises.

  • Use your breath to anchor yourself: When the anger is overwhelming and you’re about to react, remove yourself from the situation and focus on your breathing. Return to the situation when your breath has calmed you down and you’re back in control of yourself.

  • Walk around the room and feel the contact of your feet with the ground when the anger arises: With this approach you’re neither running away from the anger nor immersing yourself in the feeling too much. Be balanced in your attention.

The most important point is to try and discover the cause of your anger by watching your thoughts.

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