How To Overcome Anger With Mindfulness
Study your anger.
What usually makes you angry? Where are you when you get angry? Who makes you angry? Write it all down. Usually we don't even realize we're angry until it's too late. But knowing the circumstances that trigger your anger can help you avoid them or prepare yourself. Once you've written down a list of triggers, think about these questions:
- What physical things happen to you when you get angry?
- What thoughts usually go through your head?
- What behaviors do you engage in?
People say that politics make them angry and then go and read more political news. So for those who say they can't possibly avoid their triggers, it might be easier than you think. And even if you can't avoid a trigger, you can often reduce its impact. If morning traffic is a trigger, that's probably unavoidable. But you can focus your attention elsewhere, like audiobooks or podcasts.
Train your mind.
Sit down. Close your eyes. Take a couple breaths. Now imagine something that makes you lose it. Get a clear picture in you head. Make it as real as possible, the events unfolding before you. Yes, try to make yourself angry. But rather than getting caught up in the anger, focus on the sensations in your body. Are your muscles getting tense? Is your face feeling flushed? Observe these sensations and emotions but don't embrace them. Thoughts of anger will continue to come to the forefront of your mind. And that's okay. Bring your focus back to the sensations over and over. Do this for 10-15 minutes until you notice the emotions start to subside. With practice, it will get easier to calm the mind.
Break the cycle.
Modify each of these components of your anger and you can keep them from intensifying the emotions. This will give you more time to get your felings under control.
- Physical: Instead of short, shallow breaths, slow down and take deep breaths from your diaphragm. Breathe in for 4 seconds; breathe out for 5 seconds. Repeat.
- Mental: Take a step back from the judgmental thoughts and observe, don't embrace.
- Behavior: Clenching your fists just tightens muscles and makes you more stressed. Place your hands palms down on a table or your thighs to avoid tightening your muscles.
Next time you begin to feel anger, remember these steps to calm the mind and body.