Everyone struggles with anger at some point in their lives. From lingering frustrations to outright rage, it’s easy to feel helpless when anger strikes and, too often, people end up speaking or behaving in ways they later find regrettable. However, there are tools we can use to lessen our experience of anger and live more peacefully.
In my classes, I teach that below anger there is usually a softer emotion – one that’s more vulnerable – and the anger rises up to protect it. I discovered my own anger while discussing an issue in my life during a recent therapy session, and underneath that anger was fear.
Identifying my anger and looking deeper allowed me to recognize this fear – a primal fear – and it brought me to tears, which was great! I’m not a big crier, and crying is such a wonderful stress reliever – so it felt good to let it out. From there, I was able to consider what I could do next to help myself heal.
There is a Buddhist saying that goes: “We make our own hell by wishing things were different than they are.” There are many things in life that we can’t control, and my anger was over one of these things in my own life. My solution? I decided it was time to renew my gratitude practice.
To heal from anger, commit to answering two questions for yourself each day:
What did you enjoy today?
What are you grateful for today?
On more obviously joyful days, you may have plenty of answers at the ready to these questions. On other days though, it still pays to take the time to look for moments you can appreciate – and these feelings of gratitude need not be monumental (though they certainly can be).
Maybe you enjoyed the feeling of sunshine on your face as you walked to your car on the way to work. Perhaps you’re grateful for a smile from a stranger or your favorite morning beverage. At the end of a long day, you may find yourself grateful for your favorite chair or a comfortable bed to curl up in.
Write your answers down in a gratitude journal so you can reflect back on all you are grateful for. Keep it as simple as you need to; the practice is allowing yourself to become mindful of the joyful moments and the things you’re grateful for – every day. The more you practice being mindful of these, the more easily you will be able to return to feelings of peace and gratitude in lieu of spiraling out into anger when frustration threatens to overtake your thoughts. Feelings of anger cannot exist at the same time as feelings of gratitude!
If you struggle with anger, this can really make a difference in your overall well-being. Acknowledge your anger, try to get beneath it to identify the softer emotion that is there, then up your mindfulness practices – such as keeping a gratitude journal or doing a few minutes of mindfulness meditation each day.
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