Hot-head. Quick to anger. Blow a fuse. Hit the ceiling. All idioms that acknowledge the fast path to fury. As far as emotions go, it’s the easiest to trigger while also being the most disruptive.
So. what do you do if you have a temper? What steps can be taken to prevent an outburst? If you want to learn how to calm down when angry, keep reading. Below are some facts on how meditation can help.
The Problem with Anger
Before moving further, it’s important to explore why anger is a problem that needs to be addressed. After all, it’s a natural occurrence that can be seen in all forms of life. It serves an evolutionary purpose, too. Sometimes it’s what’s needed to goad us into action. It may be the motivation to fight back and defend ourselves.
And it is an essential part of life. To do away with anger completely would create many vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The problem comes with how anger is expressed. Because it bypasses our sense of logic, it can lead to irrational behaviors. Worse yet, it can create permanent damage that affects both our long-term needs as well as those of our loved ones.
Another issue with anger is that it has a detrimental effect on our health. People who suffer from chronic anger have higher levels of adrenaline and cortisol in their bloodstream. These hormones, while being necessary it certain situations, can lead to a number of ailments. Headaches, anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and even strokes can result from high levels of anger.
This doesn’t even begin to touch on the effect it can have on family, friends, coworkers, and more. That’s why anger management is an essential skill. Being able to modulate emotional responses allows one live optimally.
How then, does one learn to manage their anger?
The Promise of Meditation
Meditation is an ancient technique for practicing mindfulness. By taking the time to properly breathe and relax the mind, meditation allows the practitioner to recognize their thought patterns. By being in tune with the activity of the brain, one can then learn to ‘let go’ of thoughts, in effect freeing the brain from any unnecessary activity.
Another way to look at it is that mindfulness helps one free themselves from the ego. The ego, that sometimes bothersome perception of who we think we are, can fall into psychological traps. By definition, the ego separates us from the outside world.
That can cause us to interpret incidents as being personal attacks, as opposed to random occurrences. Being able to step back from the ego allows us to separate our emotions from our actions.
There are many scientifically-proven benefits meditation offers. It’s recognized as an effective way to reduce anxiety, increase focus, improve cognition and more. It’s easy to see, then, to see the benefits of this practice in regards to managing anger.
Meditation in Practice
How do you, then, apply meditation to anger management?
The practice of meditation is a process. You can’t view it as something to be accomplished or mastered. Someone with years of meditation experience can still suffer the same struggles as beginners at times.
What’s important is to develop a practice and stick with it. You can’t wait for anger to present itself and then hope to meditate it away. It doesn’t work like that. Instead, you need to begin practicing meditation to help gain an awareness as to how your mind works. This way, when emotions begin to flare, you can see the angry response forming, and take action to redirect it.
Think of it like a stoplight. Meditation doesn’t turn on a red light at the sign of anger, stopping it in its tracks. What it does, instead, is give you a yellow light, allowing you a moment to recognize your response for what it is. This can still lead to an outburst.
Meditation doesn’t prevent emotional responses. Instead, you’ll have the ability to step back from the situation and take a moment to determine how you want to respond.
Take this moment to study the anger. Where does it come from? Why is it so powerful? Often, anger can mask different emotions. Are you projecting a weakness of your own onto someone else? Are you trying to hide fear or insecurity?
Getting in touch with your anger gives you power over it. The better you can understand it, the better you can redirect it, or use its energy for productive purposes.
How to Calm Down When Angry
So, you’ve been practicing meditation, staying mindful of your actions, yet something has triggered you. You feel that knot in your stomach beginning to grow. How should you respond?
Assuming that you aren’t under a direct threat, take this opportunity to step back and follow these steps.
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Breathe deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you exhale, keep your lungs empty for a pause before inhaling again.
- Consider the situation. What made you so angry? If it’s caused by somebody’s actions, try and consider what would make them act that way. Think about how their actions really affect you. If you were to step back and look at the situation objectively, does the action still seem so offensive?
- If you still feel that you have the right to be angry, do a quick scan of your body, from head to toes. Can you find evidence of the anger anywhere? A tight jaw or clenched fists are obvious physical displays. Think about the negative effect these stresses have on your body. How else can you use this energy?
- Keep breathing as you examine your anger from every angle. Recognizing it as a response of your ego, and not a component of it creates a separation.
- When ready, open your eyes and respond in a way you truly feel is appropriate.
Mindfulness training should be ongoing. It’s not something with a defined endpoint. Instead, it’s a tool that, when used, allows us to respond in a calm, considered fashion. Knowing how to calm down when angry can have a massive positive effect on your life.
For more ideas on how meditation can improve your life, visit some of our other posts.