10 Healthy Ways to Channel Your Anger and Be Happier
Don't just ignore your anger—use it, mental health experts say.
Anger is a normal, healthy response to many unfavorable circumstances, but it's not a particularly accepted emotion in our society. That's in part because so many people mishandle their anger, taking it out on the wrong people, or expressing it in unhealthy ways. However, mental health experts say that in some cases, anger is not only normal but also necessary. The key, they say, is how you channel your anger so that you can process it and let it go on your own terms, rather than projecting it onto others or stuffing it deep down inside, where it can cause even more harm.
"Don't just look at anger as a hurdle to jump over," Michael Laauwe, a certified life coach and host of the podcast Positive Thinking Mind, tells Best Life. "See it as a bridge—a bridge that, when crossed with awareness and intention, can lead to growth, understanding, and perhaps, a happier, more fulfilled life."
Wondering how you can begin managing your anger for a healthier outlook and happier life? Read on to learn 10 expert-endorsed ways to channel your anger starting now.
Work it out in your workout.
Nearly every mental health expert we spoke to emphasized the importance of physical exercise as a way to channel anger.
"There's a kind of catharsis in movement," explains R.Y. Langham, PhD, a psychologist with Impulse Therapy. "Whether it's a brisk walk, a swim, or a more intense workout, these activities not only help dissipate the adrenaline surge that accompanies anger but also release endorphins, our body's natural mood elevators."
Louise Hateley, a physiotherapist and director of In Stride Health Clinic, says she recommends this approach to many clients. "You can browse for free fitness videos online or you can do your own thing, but if you're looking for a way to release your anger, be sure to challenge yourself and give it your all when you're working out. Even while it may make you feel stupid, yelling or grunting when you exercise has really been shown to help you exert more energy."
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Try breathwork and meditation.
Another way to channel your anger and become happier is through breathwork and meditation. "I cannot emphasize enough the importance of deep breathing and meditation," says Langham. "The act of focusing on one's breath, grounding oneself in the present moment, can often quell the storm of emotions raging within. Over time, it creates a buffer, allowing us to gain perspective and react more thoughtfully rather than impulsively."
Pauline Yeghnazar Peck, MMFT, PhD, a licensed psychologist and certified trauma-informed yoga teacher, recommends a few breathing exercises in particular: square breathing, double inhale breathing, or humming breath. If you need more guidance, you can also follow one of many anger-focused guided breathing exercises available online.
Express your anger creatively.
Expressing your anger through creative outlets can also help you heal. "I've observed that many find solace in channeling their anger through creative expression. The canvas of art, the rhythm of music, or the depth of written prose can be mirrors reflecting our innermost feelings, allowing us to articulate them in ways words sometimes fail to," says Langham.
The psychologist says that journaling can be an especially powerful creative outlet for those struggling with feelings of anger. "Journaling provides an intimate space for reflection, enabling us to dissect the nuances of our emotions, sometimes even leading to profound realizations about their root causes," she says.
Let it spark a conversation.
Sometimes, anger is a sign that something needs to change or be better understood—and neither is typically done in isolation. That's why Langham suggests channeling your anger into a productive conversation that will help you explore your feelings and decide the next steps.
"While introspection has its merits, sometimes the balm we need is communication. Speaking about what's bothering us to a trusted friend, a family member, or even a therapist can often shine a new light on our challenges. When discussing your feelings, try to approach the conversation with an intent to both understand and be understood. It's not about venting but about seeking clarity," she tells Best Life.
Use it to dig deep.
Shylah Blatt, LMFT, a therapist with East Bay Counseling, says it's also important to get curious about your anger. "As odd as it sounds, approaching your anger with curiosity and openness can go a long way in channeling anger. All feelings want to be seen and acknowledged, and anger is no exception. Anger can often tell us when something is not right or [if] there is some injustice going on, and it is only by curiously wondering where the anger is coming from that we can figure out what it is trying to tell us," she tells Best Life.
Langham agrees that this type of reflection can transform your relationship with anger. "I'd encourage you to delve into cognitive restructuring, a therapeutic technique where we transform our patterns of thinking about anger triggers. It's about shifting from a place of reactivity to one of reflection, and while it might sound complicated, it's often about those small affirmations and re-framings that we tell ourselves in heated moments," she says.
RELATED: 9 Affirmations to Always Stay Positive.
Do whatever feels good in the moment (within reason).
Sometimes anger is a fleeting feeling, and it's OK to soothe it by doing whatever feels good in the moment. Peck says this might include singing loudly in the car, punching a pillow, taking a boxing class, or throwing rocks into a pond, for example.
Of course, if you're prone to unhealthy outlets—excessive drinking, drugs, or impulsively picking fights with your loved ones, to name a few—it's best to steer clear of this method.
Become an advocate.
Anger can be a powerful tool for sparking change, which is why Peck says that you should channel those negative feelings, however uncomfortable, into becoming an advocate for others. Use that fiery feeling to stand up for the things that matter to you most, she says.
This is especially pertinent for people whose anger stems from macro or political issues. Rather than becoming frustrated and powerless, get active and connect with other people who are passionate about your cause.
Use it to examine your boundaries.
Blatt says that when you feel angry, you should ask yourself whether there's a particular boundary that's been crossed. If the answer is yes, you can then determine whether you need to re-establish that boundary as firm or re-examine it.
"Oftentimes when anger comes up, it is our body's and mind's way of telling us that someone or something has stepped over a boundary that we have set, or a new boundary needs to be established. Seeing the anger as helpful insight helps channel it in a productive and useful way," she says.
Heal the feelings that are below the surface.
Anger is only very rarely the primary emotion, which is why Blatt recommends trying to understand the root causes of your anger and tending to whatever feelings lie beneath the surface.
"Anger is what we call a secondary emotion, and often, underneath anger are softer emotions like hurt or fear," she explains. "Rather than seeing your anger as a part of yourself that you have to shut down, you can start to see the hurt and fear underneath the anger and begin to care and nurture it."
Use music to get in touch with your feelings.
Music is also a great way to channel those feelings of anger, says Tara Moyle, LPC, a New Jersey-based counselor.
"Loud music with angry lyrics or pounding beats can also help someone feel that they are not alone in their intense feelings. Anger is a part of being a person, and trying to get rid of it completely is not usually successful. Rather, it's something to become aware of, and ideally, we become more and more skilled at managing our anger," she explains.
Begin with music that meets you where you are emotionally, then try gradually lowering the intensity of your playlist to help you shift your state of mind.
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