Anger has a pretty bad reputation compared to other emotions like happiness, love, compassion, and excitement. Its lack of respect is likely rooted in social and cultural norms as well as its sometimes destructive side-effects like aggression and violence. But anger in itself is neither good nor bad—it’s what you do with it that matters.
In fact, anger is actually a valid, healthy, and valuable emotion—one that can teach you a lot about yourself and how to handle troubling situations. Anger can be harnessed to:
- discharge tension and bring you back to calm
- Energize you—helping you mobilize resources, and achieve your goals
- motivate you to solve problems
- bring awareness to injustices in the world
- be a positive force for change
- be used as a tool to know yourself at a deeper level.
The key is making sure you have healthy ways to express your anger (rather than suppress it and let it boil over to rage). Here are some healthy ways to express anger that serve your emotional and physical wellbeing and allow you to harness it to serve a higher, more meaningful purpose.
Take a Break, Take a Walk
When anger kicks in it can be very hard to calm down if you stay in the situation or conversation. Physically clear the adrenaline out of your system by taking a break, having a change of scenery and going for a walk or run, and allowing your anger to subside a little. It will also allow you to slow down your breathing and allow you to return more balanced and refreshed.
Try A Simple Breathing Technique
When you're angry, you probably don’t feel like sitting to meditate for an hour! But you can access your breath as a calming tool if you notice your breathing is becoming quicker and shallower. One easy way to blow off some steam is to slow and deepen your breathing. Take three or four slow, deep breaths to take the edge off your anger (count to four in and six out) no matter where you are or what you’re doing.
Vent to Someone You Trust
Anger often gets pent up when people don’t feel they can express their emotions or don’t know how. Having an outlet to talk with, like a trusted and empathetic friend can be a great option. Ask them if it’s OK if you vent, let them know that you don’t necessarily want or need advice, or need their agreement—but just a safe space to share your thoughts and release the pressure.
Hit Pause Until You’re No Longer “Flooded”
When you feel “flooded” by anger it’s usually not a very constructive place from which to take action or share your concerns. Waiting until your nervous system has stabilized and you're thinking clearly again (by using some of the other tips) means you will be able to express your frustration in an assertive, clear, and non-confrontational way.
Practice Calm as a Preventative Measure
It’s not realistic to expect yourself to be calm and zen-like every second of your day. But it’s also not realistic to expect you can quickly bring yourself to a calm state with the flick of a switch (especially when anger has taken hold!). Support your body’s ability to cope when anger strikes by weaving calming influences into your day-to-day life as a preventative measure. Consider things like meditation, deep breathing, exercising, and taking time to wind down before bed.
If you can practice the art of observing, experiencing, and managing your anger without being overwhelmed by it or reacting to it—you can benefit yourself and others. When left unchecked, it can be destructive, but if you can learn to use it thoughtfully it becomes a beneficial and powerful tool for positive change.