HOW MANY OF YOU CAN SAY THIS FOR YOURSELF, “I lose my temper, but it lasts only for a minute or two.” Let me then tell you, even the atom bomb took the same time but just think about the damage it caused. Maybe that’s the reason it is said that ‘Anger is just one letter short of Danger.’
Let’s first understand what anger is? I know we all have enough in our life and literally know what anger is.
But let me take the liberty and define anger from a scientific lens. Just read this till the end and I challenge- you’ll start seeing anger from a different angle.
Amygdala and PFC Connection.
Anger is an emotion. Emotions normally begin inside two almond shape cells called the amygdala, present on each side of the brain. Amygdala defines and generates emotions. It is also called the ‘emotional brain.’
Have you ever lost control of your thoughts in the heat of the moment and did something that you later regretted?
If yes, then probably you suffered from amygdala hijacking.
This term “amygdala hijack” was first used by psychologist Daniel Goleman in his 1995 book, “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Matter More Than IQ.”
It’s nothing but immediate and intense emotional overreaction to a particular situation. Is this not what you do when you are angry. It is the amygdala that activates the famous, ‘fight or flight’ response.
To understand what exactly is amygdala hijack is, you need to know about a second part of the brain: the pre-frontal cortex (PFC). Also called the CEO of the brain, control panel of the brain, and emperor of the brain, the PFC is the cerebral cortex that covers the front part of the frontal lobe.
The PFC a part of the thinking brain is the region that is responsible for all executive functions of the brain like Decision making, Planning, Judgment, Problem-solving, Self-control, Logic, Reasoning, and many more. These executive functions are what make us who we are as humans.
In short, if the amygdala handles emotion, the PFC handles judgment.
The PFC evaluates your emotions and then uses its logic and reasoning to respond consciously. Generally, in amygdala hijack, you run on autopilot mode, but PFC takes you out of the auto mode and helps keep things under control.
In the event of intense anger or a threatening situation, the amygdala may make a split-second decision to launch the fight-or-flight response which then shuts down the PFC. The PFC cannot switch off the emotions, thereby your judgment is hampered and you end up overreacting.
Managing and controlling your anger means knowing ways to help your PFC to have the upper hand over the amygdala so that you are conscious and aware of how you react to angry feelings. For this to happen you need to create some space between the trigger and the reaction.
Below I am sharing some scientific ways to manage your anger. Let’s begin!
- Baby Sing a Song.
Sarah Wilson, a neuropsychologist at the University of Melbourne, carried out a scientific study looking at the way the brain reacts when we sing. In her experiment, she took 26 participants with different singing abilities and conducted MRI scans as they sang.
“When we sing, large parts of our brain “light up,” says Sarah Wilson. According to her, when we speak, the side of the brain dealing with language lights up, but when we sing, both sides of the brain spark into life.
When you sing, musical vibrations move in your body, changing your physical and emotional state. In singing, you focus on the rate of breathing which activates the emotional part of the brain.
Studies after studies have scientifically proven that singing lowers stress, reduces anxiety and most important, exercise releases the brain’s ‘feel-good chemical’ endorphins, which makes you feel uplifted. Endorphins immediately elevate the feeling of happiness, lift your mood, and create a sense of euphoria.
Another hormone found to be released during singing is Oxytocin, which enhances the feeling of trust and bonding thus alleviating depression and loneliness.
So, in any situation whether you are angry or under stress, music has the potential to positively impact your mind and body.
Scientists have even identified a small organ in the ear called the sacculus. This organ responds to the frequencies created by singing and these responses offer an immediate sense of pleasure and happiness.
You can easily say that singing acts like the perfect tranquilizer, that not only soothes muscles and nerves but also elevates your spirits.
So, the next time you find yourself engulfed in the inferno of anger, start singing. Don’t worry whether you have the voice of a cuckoo or a crow, whether you’re a professional singer or a bathroom singer (like me), singing offers some remarkable positive effects immediately. Allow the musical vibration to wash through you and feel the soft healing and uplifting vibes bringing immediate relief. I am a horrible singer but believe me, it really works. Just try and see for yourself!
Interesting Read:- The 24 Hour Rule for Anger management.
- Visualization and Imagination.
Visualization is a powerful way to deal with anger. As stated in the introductory passage of this blog, anything that helps you detach and separate from the very source of anger is an effective way to calm and cool down. Visualization helps you do that. It comes in many forms, let me share a few with you.
Visualize yourself in a peaceful and relaxing place. Close your eyes for a few moments and let your imagination flow wild. For example, imagine yourself sitting on the white pristine sand of your favourite beach, imagine yourself sitting by a beautiful and peaceful pond or lake, or imagine yourself sitting on a wood in the forest.
Focus on the scene for some time. Feel the soft sand on the bottom of your feet, feel the touch of silky and smooth water flowing by and touching your feet, feel the gentle breeze flowing and rubbing off your body, or imagine the melodious song of cuckoo entering your ears in the wilderness. I am sure, that just reading these lines is giving you a sense of soothing. Isn’t it?
This is the power of imagination. Finally, visualize the anger clouds floating away from you and experience mental and physical relaxation happening.
Another very powerful and extremely creative way to visualize is to imagine your anger as a drop of water. Close your eyes and visualize your mind as a vast blue ocean of calm. Now imagine your anger as drops of water falling into your calm and quiet ocean. See no ripple effect happening and the drop gets absorbed in eternity and becomes one with the ocean. Really worth trying!
Also, you can visualize some positive and motivating quotes that you may have read or heard. In anger, negativity flows fast. So, imagining positive statements immediately alters your mood and you likely will start to behave differently.
Sometimes when your buttons are pressed, you can turn from a gentle lamb into a raging tornado. Anger is like tornados, generating a whirling mass of emotions flowing through and in the process can manifest as physical and emotional abuse, murder, and road rage.
If your surge of anger is of high intensity and you cannot imagine doing soft visualizations as above, then see your anger as a tornado ripping through an open field, blowing debris across the landscape, tearing down huge trees and poles, and stirring up clouds of dust. Now slowly after passing a couple of minutes with eyes closed, imagine the tornado dying down along with your anger.
So, the next time you are riding on the wave of anger, pick and choose any of the above visualization techniques and see the wave subsiding down and transforming into the calm water of peace.
Amazing Read :- Scientific tips and tricks to beat stress.
- Journaling or Writing Down Your Thoughts.
Writing when you are angry is one of the most effective ways to allow your brain to distract from the situation and focus your thoughts and channelize them in the right direction. Journaling your thoughts during intense moments of anger helps you to understand and express your feelings more mindfully.
Through writing and reporting the reasons for anger, you become more aware and more in control over how you feel, express, and act. Writing down your thoughts restores a sense of intellectual and emotional control.
Remember it’s a great way to remote control your response and take positive action preventing you from further regret and disappointment. Also, when journaling you dump all those thoughts that are bothering you and clouding your intellect and judgment. This allows you to think and see more clearly because your brain is no more clouded with negative feelings and thoughts. Keep writing till you empty your cup.
Here comes the best part: Tear the paper and throw it away in the garbage or burn it. Though symbolic, it tells your mind that these negative thoughts were in fact garbage. And if possible, replace them with positive thoughts and keep them close, and re-read whenever needed.
So, the next time you’re boiling in anger and your mind is spiraling with negative thoughts, then dump them all out on paper. This can bring you some immediate peace and calmness. Don’t worry if you’re paperless, just use your smartphone and start typing a stream of conscious words on your phone. Just think of it as texting.
We may be paperless but we are never mobile less. Isn’t it?
Relaxing Read:- Change Your Mind- The Power of Meditation.
- Move and Shake Your Body.
When angry you’re packed with steam. Exercise or physical activity is a great way to let off the steam. It releases your pent-up energy.
The hormones that get released when you are angry- mainly cortisol and adrenaline, give you a rush of energy. Anger management is all about handling that burst of energy.
One of the best ways to put that surge in energy to optimum use is to engage in any physical activity. Exercise or physical activity can immediately get your blood pumping thus giving you an ideal outlet to express your tension and emotions. Also, anger tightens your muscles and nerves, so doing some physical stretching can help calm your nerves and thus helps reduce anger.
It is scientifically known that exercising leads to the release of happy chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin. They are the same chemicals that even reduce stress. Also, it has been observed that people who are physically fit have optimum levels of these chemicals, which makes them feel good.
Now tell me can you be angry if you’re feeling good? No! Unless you are a super talented actor.
So, when you feel angry next time, or feel your anger escalating then immediately get up and start moving your body.
Go for a brisk walk around the block, go for a run, hit the gym, or do some yoga poses. You can even spend some time doing other enjoyable physical activities. It will help you decompress and relax your body and mind.
This will even help you to clear your mind and approach the same situation with a cooler head. Chances are that your perception may change, and if your perception changes everything changes.
Interesting Read:- Gut Feelings – How to Improve Immunity.
- Display Your Counting Skill.
This strategy of counting slowly from one to ten or even 100 is known to many and may sound silly to others, but it really works and is quite a healthy way to immediately tone down your anger pitch.
Why? Because doing this shifts your focus to another activity, giving you a chance to cool off, gather yourself and your thoughts before you angrily react. Also, the time it will take you to count will help slow down your heart rate and blood pressure that had risen during anger. It will also slow your breathing thus giving you some extra time to think and reflect.
So, the next time you feel the adrenaline rush, start counting to ten before you react. But by the time you reach 10 and if you still feel restless and out of control, then increase your count up to 100.
Who knows you’ll diffuse the anger bomb before it explodes?
Even counting backward can also do the same. Also, experiment by saying the alphabet in reverse order. Be Innovative and come up with your own version.
But, if you are a die-hard anger zombie, with very little patience, there is a possibility that you may get angrier when you do count as you’ll have to wait for long before you respond back. If this is the case then you better need some expert help and extra effort. Just reading this blog won’t help.
Related Read:- 6 Mind-Blowing Tricks to Defeat Stress
- Smell the Rose: Aromatherapy.
Have you heard about aromatherapy?
Aromatherapy or essential oil therapy is a holistic alternative treatment for therapeutic benefits. It uses essential oils extracted from plants. Aromatherapy has been around for thousands of years, but recently it has gained more acceptance and recognition among scientists and medical experts.
The term ‘Aromatherapy’ was first coined for a book published in 1937 by a French chemist and perfumer Rene-Maurice Gattefosse. It has been shown to be very effective in improving both physical and mental health. It also enhances the well-being of the body, mind and spirit.
Aromatherapy is one of the best available tools for anger management.
According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, some of the most popular and best essential oils are:
Inhalation is one of the most efficient methods to gain benefits from aromatherapy.
For anger management, experts’ advise two approaches: the first one is to simply rub the essential oil between your palms, then place your hand at a proper distance from the nose, and breathe in gently.
The second method considered the most ideal is through inhalation via a diffuser. You just put some oil in a diffuser and then soak in the aroma. It can be done anywhere- office or at home.
Inhaling the aroma stimulates nerves in the nose, which send impulses to the brain. As the fragrance molecules reach the brain it affects the limbic system- the part of the brain that controls memory and emotion and is also linked to the heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and hormonal balance. This reduces adrenaline, but at the same time increases serotonin production. The whole process helps reduce anger feelings, stress, and tension.
Word of Caution:
It is very important that the oils used should be natural and of the highest quality. If it is laced with chemicals, it can be harmful and allergic. So, it is extremely important to use the right oils in the right way and at the right time. It is always recommended to speak with a trained aromatherapist or health expert before using these essential oils. Also, if you are suffering from some chronic illness and taking prescription medicines then make sure you consult your doctor before beginning this complementary therapy.
Next time when you find yourself in a situation that you feel can trigger your anger instincts, these six go-to powerful techniques can help you to cool and calm down.
Start with the technique that feels best to you, or use a customized combination to find the sense of calm that feels right for you.
Please connect with me by sharing your viewpoint on the techniques in the comments box below!
Wishing You an Anger Free Life.