Think about the last time you were angry. Did you let it take over and start shouting, or were you able to tame the anger and harness it in a helpful way?
I'll give you a minute.
If you were able to calmly state your needs and desires then congratulations to you, you're harnessing the anger in a constructive way. However this will not be the case for most people because just like any other emotion, we get caught up in the heat of it.
Anger in it's natural form is good. It's there to keep us safe from harm, and it's a way of asserting ourselves.
Anger is what helps us fight in a moment of danger.
Now the problem is that it can become a roadblock on a day-to-day basis. In the modern world we aren't faced with very many life-threatening situations, so anger actually becomes harmful when it's being misused on petty arguments or when a situation doesn't go the way we want.
An unreasonable level of anger will only ruin our tranquility and peace.
So what can you do to reduce and control your anger?
STEP 1: DIET
What we consume directly affects our bodies. It affects the way we perform, think, and even the way we feel. When it comes to anger, it's the stimulants that are most important.
Stimulants are consumables such as food, drinks, and in some cases drugs that arouse the body. They give us more energy and make us feel more alert.
This isn't a bad thing per se, but it will increase the likelihood of experiencing anger.
Examples such as caffeine, sugar, and alcohol are all stimulants that will do this. Lowering our overall intake of these sorts of consumables, will systematically help keep the anger at bay.
STEP 2: EXERCISE
Anger comes out when stress builds up in the body.
As we go through our daily routines, we're faced with various situations that increase our stress level. Anything from running late to a doctor's appointment, to worrying about whether we will finish a report for class on time will increase the amount of stress we experience.
That stress will then build up into irritation, and if we're not careful it can even turn into anger that will burst out with the slightest incident.
We've all seen someone overreact to a comment and blow it completely out of proportion. Some of us have even been that person.
Exercising will release that stress from our bodies. It will help lower the level of irritation we feel so that we can better handle other stressors we come across.
This is why physical fitness is not only great for our physical health, but for our mental health as well.
STEP 3: WRITE IT OUT
This is another great way to release stress, and it even adds the additional advantage of understanding our anger.
When we sit down and write out our experiences it helps us get a clearer picture of them. By doing this we have an enormous advantage over those who don't, because we can use this tool to reduce the overall effect of our anger and ultimately change our entire perspective on it.
This should be practiced both after we experience anger and when we feel prone to it. Writing down our thoughts after being angry gives us the opportunity to review it fully, while writing down our thoughts prior will help prevent us from reaching an unhealthy level.
Here are things you can focus on:
How do you feel?
Why do you feel this way?
What is it that you want?
Why do you want it?
How can you get it intelligently?
STEP 4: GIVE UP ON EXPECTATION
Don't assume that you can always get what you want. Life is not perfect.
Sometimes things will go your way and sometimes they won't, but either way you will be okay in the end.
The Stoics were very keen on this perspective. They understood that people are prone to become angry when they place an expectation on something. Their solution then was to have no expectation, because when you have no desire for a particular outcome then you can never be harmed by it.
This isn't only in regards to situations, it also applies to the people around you. Expecting other people to be the way you want them to be is useless. Just as you wouldn't appreciate someone trying to control you, the other person doesn't either.
Whether you decide to take the Stoic approach or simply decide not to get mad when something doesn't go your way, is a positive step toward reducing your anger.
The key is in the way you look at life.