I want to talk about anger. It’s a common human emotion – a burning sensation that seems to rise up from your stomach into the back of your throat. A powerful feeling that can really knock you off course, ruin your day and stamp out productivity. It can sometimes feel like there a lot of things to be angry about and it becomes a really negative cycle as you push all those bad feelings onto other people and tasks.
It can be easy to get dragged into that cycle and not even notice that your productivity, relationships, and general wellbeing are suffering as a result. I have certainly been guilty of getting into this bad habit in the past. But it is just that – a habit. The more we let ourselves get dragged into anger, the more it consumes us on a day to day basis. It is a slippery slope. In life, there will inevitably be things that make you feel angry – perhaps a partner who has treated you badly, or a friend who has not had your back. The day I learned to feel the emotion and then let it go it changed my life. I am not saying that achieving this is easy, not when for so many years I used to carry around fragments of anger from various events. But I did it and so can you.
I was talking to someone about anger and negative feelings in general and they were explaining to me about observing them and letting them pass by. Essentially what I now understand to be mindfulness. Mindfully observing the feeling but not getting consumed by it. I thought about this for some time and then realised that dwelling on negative emotions was holding me back from focusing on positive and productive things in my life. I was using up headspace in the wrong way.
I came up with three words that I now use all of the time – Stop, Breathe, Replace.
Stop – If I start to feel angry I say ‘STOP’ in my mind. It is a reminder to myself to observe the emotion as if I am a bystander, understand why I am feeling that way and let it pass. Don’t let the anger or other negative emotion overwhelm me and bring me down.
Breathe – In the BestMeLife journal we have provided a number of breathing exercises and if you try them you will likely find the one that works best for you in a given situation. For me it is a deep inhalation through the nose until I fill my lungs. Then a full and slow exhalation through the mouth. I do this a few times. For me it takes at least 5 rounds.
Replace – Hopefully by this stage you have been so focussed on your breath that you have naturally expelled the anger or negative emotion. I find it useful to mindfully put a productive thought in place of the negative one. So it might be a goal you are working on or something else that is positive in your life.
I won’t tell you it is going to be easy to break a bad old habit of holding onto anger. But it is absolutely possible if you approach it mindfully.
Remember – STOP, BREATHE, REPLACE.