Your husband forgot your anniversary. Your boss took credit for your work. Some jerk cut you off on the highway. Let’s face it: Unless you’ve put in months 0f training at a Buddhist monastery, you’re never going to stop anger from rearing its ugly, insidious head.
Thankfully, anger, no matter what lifestyle gurus may have you believe, is not a difficult beast to tame. By deploying some tried-and-true tactics—like smelling the proper scent, or exercising in a highly specific environment—you can tamp down any nascent feelings of ‘roid-like rage in a heartbeat. Just read for a crash course in achieving instant tranquility whenever you need to cool off. And for more great ways to live your best life, don’t miss these 100 Motivational Weight-Loss Tips for Summer.
Think about Birds
Yes, birds. John Oliver deplores them. Alfred Hitchcock adores them. But, as it turns out, just thinking about our free-roaming feathered friends can seriously slash feelings of nascent frustration. According to psychologist Michael Kahn, Ph.D., picturing a creature with a bird’s-eye-view of what’s going on—like, you know, a bird—can help you reframe the situation and, ultimately, put your anger in a new perspective. And for more ways to kick back and relax, learn the 30 Ways to De-Stress in Just 30 Seconds (or Less!)
Pound the Pavement
Everyone knows that exercise begets an instant hit of endorphins—it’s why so many people seek that mood-boosting “runner’s high.” But, if you want to reap maximum benefits, take your workout outside. Just being in an open-air environment—the endless sky, the serenity of the great outdoors—is enough to take any bursting feelings of anger down a notch. When you’re on the trail, though, be sure to steer clear of the 15 Things Everyone Does Wrong While Running.
Look at Photos of a Forest
Mother Nature is the cheapest form of therapy there is, so it’s always wise to step outside whenever you feel your blood boiling. And if you can’t step away from your desk, even just looking at a picture of the great outdoors for a few minutes is enough to bring on the sensation of serenity. If you’re in the market for a long, relaxing getaway in the great outdoors, try visiting any of the 15 Best Under-the-Radar American Escapes.
Blast Some Heavy Metal
Is all that pent-up anger about to boil over into a fit of rage? Throw on some head-banging hits! It was previously believed that intense heavy metal music might induce feelings of frustration, but that theory was proved wrong when it was discovered that listening to heavy metal is “a healthy way of processing anger.” And if such intense tunes aren’t your cup of tea, find the music that best helps you process your negative emotions and crank it up.
Count to 10
As Thomas Jefferson once said: “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, 100.” And psychiatry professor Dan Johnston, PhD, agrees with Jefferson’s advice, noting that it “emphasizes the two key elements of anger management—time and distraction.” Counting distracts from thinking about what’s angering us, so we don’t have time to dwell on what happened and become even more enraged.
Picture Your Coworkers in the Nude
They say that when you’re nervous about making a big public presentation, you should try to picture your audience in their underwear. Well it turns out that this strategy also works for mitigating anger. As Emil Coccaro, M.D. explained in O, The Oprah Magazine, your anger won’t persist in the face of humor—and what’s funnier than seeing the person you’re angry at in their tighty-whities? Another strategy is recalling your favorite TV comedy moment. (We personally recommend The 50 Funniest Jokes From Arrested Development.)
Curse Like Crazy
Don’t be afraid to curse a blue streak when something goes wrong. Letting a few curse words slip allows us to better process our pain and frustration—just be cognizant of whom you’re with when you shout those expletives!
Put Your Hands Together in Prayer
Even if you’re not particularly religious, your irritability will benefit from a little bit of faith. Just saying a prayer changes how we perceive a negative situation and helps us take a bad situation a little less to heart. Also, fun fact: Here’s the Secret Reason Why Religious People Live Longer.
Talk It Out
Whether venting to a paid psychologist or just a good friend, talking things out and trying to understand where the feelings of anger are coming from can actually just eliminate said feelings altogether. You calm down and you learn about yourself. Win-win!
Hug a Teddy Bear
There’s a reason that babies love cuddling their teddy bears when they feel sad or stressed. The cuddly creatures elicit the same relaxing response that a human touch would, so curl up with your childhood stuffed animal the next time you’re up in arms.
Pet a Pup
Dog is a man’s best friend, especially when man needs to cool off. And don’t just take our word for it: Dog ownership is well known to bring down anger and anxiety levels. Plus, look at that face! And if that’s not enough to convince you to buy a new pooch, consider these 15 Amazing Benefits of Adopting a Pet.
You needn’t sit criss-cross applesauce for hours and hours to reap the benefits of the ancient art of meditation. In fact, just one 20-minute session is enough to reduce anger. And if you struggle to shut your mind off during your session, try these 10 Ways to Focus Better During Meditation.
Don’t Punch Things
Don’t turn your emotional anger into something physical. Researcher Brad Bushman and his colleagues found that, contrary to popular belief, using your fists on things—like a punching bag—doesn’t let off any steam. So don’t even think about it! Instead, go for a run—preferably outside, where the fresh air will boost your mood. And also avoid these 20 Mistakes That Will Only Compound Your Stress.
When in Doubt, Write It Out
In the age of social media, it’s uncommon—and perhaps even a bit strange—to take a pen and a piece of paper with you wherever you go, but you should get in the habit of doing so. Why? In his upcoming book, The Anxiety Factor: The Role of Anxiety in Health and Performance, Harry Mills, Ph.D., recommends a simple strategy for handling bouts of aggression. Instead of acting on your anger in the moment, write a letter to the person who is making you upset and in it, explain why you’re feeling that way. Don’t send the letter, but keep it on your person and re-read it the next day. Now ask yourself: Would you still send this letter or, in retrospect, have your feelings changed a bit? This technique will give you a greater sense of perspective.
Imagine Yourself As a Distant Observer
Here’s an effective anti-anger trick, courtesy of a study from Ohio State University: Instantly pretend that you’re an observer of the situation that’s upsetting you, rather than a participant. By maintaining a detached view—as if you were a fly on the wall—you become less invested in the situation and your anger doesn’t feel as personal. And once you’ve done that, instill yourself with the 20 Expert-Backed Ways to Improve Your Mental Health.
Make Some “Me” Time
Whether it’s cooking, cleaning, or indulging in a good book, just 10 minutes a day of “me” time can give you a completely new and positive perspective on life. What you do during that time is up to you, but it’s best to put your phone away and just take in the moment. And if you struggle to put your cell down, you might want to be weary of these 20 Signs You’re Addicted to Your Smartphone.
Diffuse Some Lavender Oil
Fact: Lavender is proven to boost feelings of calmness and gratification. The soothing sent is just as effective when anxious as mood-changing medications like Xanax, Valium, and Prozac, with none of the potential side effects. Oh, and major bonus when it’s muggy out: wearing lavender oil is one of the 15 Genius Ways to Outsmart Mosquitoes This Summer!
Admit You’re Angry
When you’re feeling stressed, faking a smile is only going to hurt you in the long run. Instead, psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. says that owning your feelings is the first step in overcoming them. “Admitting that you are upset… can validate your feelings,” wrote Dr. Bonior. “This in turn can help you feel more empowered toward working toward a solution, and it will also diminish the conflict within yourself.”
Fergie might have said that big girls don’t cry, but what does she know anyway? According to the real experts, tears are your body’s way of getting rid of stress, sadness, grief, anxiety, and anger. So don’t be afraid to cry like a baby!
Take a Deep Breath
Before you can thwart your negative feelings, you need to first take a deep breath and acknowledge what’s happening to your body. According to counselor Dr. Sarah Allen, anger is caused by a rush of adrenaline, and deep breathing helps to mitigate its effects.
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