Let's face it: we all get angry. And although we'd like to believe it's possible—for most of us—no amount of mindfulness practice or exercises in compassion will make us immune to getting mad or frustrated every once in a while.
So how do we deal? The most important thing to remember is that getting angry from time to time doesn't (in any way, shape, or form) make you a bad yogi, wellness warrior, or person. The feelings we feel and the actions of others aren't always up to us, but what we decide to do with those feelings and how we decide to occupy our space in the world is greatly within our power.
So let's take a close look and figure out how to deal with anger holistically, intelligently, and without judgment. Because it's not about stopping anger in its tracks; learning how to treat ourselves and others as we move through anger is the true lesson that many of us need to learn.
1. Don't ignore it, for your own sake and for the sake of others.
The first lesson on anger is to just simply admit that you're angry. Breathe, and allow yourself a little bit of room to feel. Don't shove it deep down where it will stew, build up the pressure inside you, and eventually explode—likely in the direction of an unsuspecting and undeserving victim.
2. Name it.
It's a great practice to name your anger for two reasons. First, it helps you understand your feelings on a deeper level, and second, it separates you from them. When you say, "I am experiencing anger because..." you become the observer and the recipient of the feeling instead of the feeling itself. This may seem like such a small shift, but it greatly empowers you to decide what to do with your anger, instead of allowing it to consume you.
3. Remember that most anger is rooted in misunderstanding.
This is an important lesson. Research has shown that angry people are more likely to misinterpret social situations and other people's true intentions. So pause—and make sure you aren't jumping to conclusions.
4. Avoid these words.
When you use words like "always" or "never," you massively inflate the magnitude of your feelings, the situation, and you justify your anger with the force of the past, present, and future—most of the time for no reason. Saying things like "I always fail" or "you never do nice things for me" takes you out of the present moment, which is just never that productive.
5. If you're in an argument aim for assertive, not aggressive.
If you feel strongly about something, being aggressive won't get you anywhere. Instead, aim to be assertive and express your opinions as clearly as you know how. And remember, most conflict stems from miscommunication, so make sure you're expressing yourself in a way that makes people want to listen.
6. Swear it out.
Many scientists insist that swear words are an important part of our emotional language and can help us express ourselves fully. Essentially, swearing is a cathartic practice and some studies even show that swearing can increase physical pain tolerance. We think it's worth an experiment!
7. Activate your senses to calm your mind.
Scents like lavender can decrease stress, anxiety, and depression and help you regulate your mood. Sometimes a sweet smell is all you need to give you some perspective and help you see things more positively. Try some herbal tea or an essential oil diffuser.
8. Observe yourself without judgment.
It's so easy to fall into the same old pattern every time something gets you fired up. So observe your thoughts and try to interrupt or divert the anger cycle. This takes practice, so at first make your goal to simply react a little differently each time and see where that takes you.
9. Exercise for aggression.
This is more of a preventive measure, but studies have shown that regular exercise helps us build better self-control. And self-control is huge when you're dealing with an emotion that can so so quickly cause you to spin out.
10. Try (your best) to laugh about it.
This is easier said than done, but according to the Mayo Clinic, humor can help you face unrealistic expectations for how you think things should go. But avoid sarcasm; this practice is about being real about what's going wrong and speaking your truth—and laughing anyway.
11. Be the change.
Some things you can't avoid or change, but other things you can! So make changes that move you away from people or situations that trigger your anger. And if you want to see the world change, get involved and be part of it! No angry back-seat driving.