Anger often gets bad press as a negative emotion, but it is a normal human emotion with distinct physiological reactions. Anger can range from mild irritation to intense rage, and manifests itself in the body by causing the heart rate to increase, blood pressure to rise, breathing to become shallow, and stress hormones to be released. It can also cause your body to shake and sweat. It’s pretty strong stuff.
It only becomes a problem if you are unable to control your anger or you are feeling angry more often than you feel other emotions. It’s a problem if it starts to affect your relationships, work or your health. You can see by the physiological reactions that being unable to manage your anger could have serious consequences for your health.
Research has shown that meditation helps to lower blood pressure and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system – the relaxation response. This is the exact opposite effect to the physiological changes that occur during times of extreme anger of elevated blood pressure and stress hormones – the flight-or-flight response.
Meditation – A Calming Solution
If you feel you are unable to get a handle on your anger, meditation may offer a gentle, non-intrusive and calming solution.
To take control of your anger, try a simple mindfulness practice daily – you only need do as little as 5-10 minutes to start off with.
- Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place where you know you will not be disturbed. Turn off your phone.
- Close your eyes and start to focus on your breath.
- Watch the breath going in, the breath going out.
- Thoughts will arise, but rather than following them, acknowledge them and then go back to the breath.
- If negative thoughts or thoughts that make you angry arise, acknowledge them – bring your awareness to them, but avoid getting caught up in the story.
- Own the anger, and then breath it out – notice it, acknowledge it then let it go.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk, says, “When our anger is placed under the lamp of mindfulness, it immediately begins to lose some of its destructive nature.”
It’s important to note that being mindful of your anger doesn’t drive it away or suppress it, it simply looks after it, knowing it is there but without reacting to it.
You can also practise a similar technique throughout the day when anger arises – stop, take a few breaths, acknowledge the anger (without blaming the person or situation that caused it), then let it go.
While this sounds simple, in the grip of a strong emotion like anger it may be hard to do. This is where “practice” comes in – that’s why it’s called practice – because you have to practice. If you practice often, it gets easier so when those strong emotions do arise, you are better equipped to deal with them.
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