Anger is a very normal emotion that everyone experiences in their lives. When a car almost hits you on the motorway, when a colleague refuses to listen to your perspective, when you miss out on an opportunity two minutes late. Many situations can naturally promote an angry response.
However, when you lose your grip, anger can spiral out of control and take over your life. Anger management is not about magically training yourself to never feel angry. Mindfulness for anger management changes the way you interact with anger through reflection, mindful breathing, compassionate thinking, and the use of a mood diary.
Reflection on Anger - Think Before Reacting
The reason that anger can be so destructive, to ourselves and the people around us, is that it often evokes a strong emotional response. Our minds are impeded by emotion, and we are likely to make snap decisions based on our feelings.
So, as well as the negative emotions, we then have to deal with the consequences of our actions in the heat of anger. For instance, in the example with the colleague, you might become frustrated and shout at them. This would not only spoil your relationship with someone you work with, but you could also risk building a bad reputation at the company.
Mindfulness for anger management can help you develop better responses. Build mindful reflection into your everyday life. Rather than acting on your emotional response to anger, practice these steps to distance yourself from your feelings.
- Slowly count to 5. This should give you an initial jolt away from feelings of anger.
- Breathe deeply in and out. Focus on the sensation of your breathing to distance your mind further from emotions.
- Examine your thoughts without judgement. What do you think and feel about the situation? Look at the thoughts objectively, without comment or judgment.
- Think rationally. At times, we all feel angry at something that just doesn't matter. Ask yourself honestly: Is this anger based on a real issue? Sometimes, it's better to just let go and move on.
- In some cases, you may want to respond in a constructive, balanced way. Don't place blame. Let people know how they make you feel, without raising your voice or starting an argument. If you don't feel ready to respond in a balanced way yet, write down your feelings in a mood diary, and return to them at a more constructive time.
Mindfulness and Anger Management - Calming Techniques
As well as reflection, mindfulness for anger management can help in other ways.
Breathing techniques can help to calm the mind. As anger builds, your heart races, your body tenses, and your blood pressure rises, making it even harder to calm down. Focus on the physical sensations of breathing in and out to lower your heart rate and put your body at ease.
Expressing compassion can also defeat anger. Especially during arguments with loved ones, it can be easy to focus on the disagreement, and forget the strong relationship you have with that person.
When you feel angry at someone, focus your mind onto feelings of compassion towards them. Remind yourself of the good things they do, and the great memories you share - this way your response will be grounded in context rather than on the current situation. Give gratitude to loved ones regularly in your daily planner, so you have many memories to refer to.
Focus on compassionate thoughts towards people that you find challenging, and your responses to them will also be more constructive.
Mood Diaries - How a Daily Planner Helps Anger Management
As well as mindfulness for anger management, keep a mood diary in your daily planner. You can use this daily planner to keep daily, weekly and monthly records of when your anger is triggered. Use your mood diary to pinpoint particular times of the day when you are more likely to become angry. What are you doing when anger strikes?
You can examine your thoughts in a more balanced frame of mind in a daily planner. What made you feel angry? What thoughts went through your mind? How did you react? What were the consequences? Would you behave the same if it happened now? Why?
Examining angry thoughts in a daily planner puts them into perspective
Look for repeating triggers in your mood diary. Maybe you become angry when you feel people are blaming you, disrespecting you or when you feel out of control. You may need extra support to unpick these deeper underlying thoughts that affect your mood and emotional responses.
Through continuous use of a mood diary and mindfulness for anger management, you can gradually train your mind to interact with feelings of anger in a more productive way. Anger management doesn't mean bottling your feelings inside. It means controlling your anger, so you can respond in a balanced way and let go, rather than letting your anger control you.