How to Let Go of Anger In Healthy Ways | SELF

It can be tough to know exactly how to let go of anger and resentment. Though conventional wisdom might nudge you toward immediate forgiveness and release, you probably can’t turn your anger off like a faucet. But, before we get into exactly how to let go of anger, let’s get one thing straight: You’re allowed to be irritated, annoyed, and pissed off. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those feelings.

At SELF, we’re passionate about normalizing big emotions—we want you to know it’s okay to experience them. Like every other feeling, anger provides information, Cicely Horsham-Brathwaite, Ph.D., a counseling psychologist and mindset coach, previously told SELF. So, if you have found that you’re raging about something specific (or you’re more pissed off than usual, and you don’t know why), anger might be pointing you toward something you need to acknowledge.

Anger is a reaction to a perceived threat, which means it can trigger our fight-or-flight response. When you’re angry, your body releases cortisol, adrenaline, and other hormones that can impact things like perspiration, heart rate, and blood flow, the American Psychological Association (APA) explains. Much like chronic stress, persistent anger can eventually lead to increased risks of hypertension, heart disease, ulcers, and bowel diseases. So while harnessed anger can be a powerful catalyst for action (think: activism), when anger controls you, it can harm your health. So it’s most helpful to try to embrace anger, learn from it, and then, well, set it free. Easier said than done? Sure. But that’s why we asked experts for advice on how exactly to do this.

Finding a balance between embracing and releasing anger requires that you “develop an intimate relationship” with it, Mitch Abrams, Psy.D., a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Rutgers University and author of Anger Management in Sport, previously told SELF. Below, you’ll find a list of eight things you can do to face your anger and work toward releasing it. There’s no one trick to getting rid of your feelings immediately, but you can metabolize them in healthy ways (or healthier, at least).

1. Be honest: You’re pissed off.

Along with rushing toward forgiveness, you might feel compelled to bury your anger. This tendency can stem from cultural messages that anger is wrong (especially for women and other marginalized people), or it might come from your personal beliefs and experiences. No matter the reason, ignoring your anger (or any other emotion) isn’t the best idea. We’re not suggesting you start a fight, but it is okay to be pissed off.

Still, admitting that you’re angry can be difficult. For instance, if you’re someone who rushes to forgive (or tries to see life from every angle), imagine how you might react to a friend who is upset. The compassion and understanding that you’d share with them might be exactly what you need to give yourself. If you’re someone who buries your emotions, take a moment to admit that you’re angry out loud. Try not to rationalize it away or pretend it doesn’t exist. Simply say the words out loud and realize that the world is still standing. It’s okay to be pissed off.

2. Write down why you’re angry.

Once you’ve realized you’re angry, write your thoughts and emotions out. Not only is it great to just vent on paper for a while, as SELF previously reported, expressing your feelings helps you regulate them. When you’re angry, logic and reason tend to suffer, according to the APA. So writing down your thoughts allows you to explore how much of your anger is rooted in reality. You can start by answering the following question: Why am I angry right now?

3. Look at the situation like you’re a fly on the wall.

Journaling about your experience is helpful, but it can encourage you to ruminate a little. So if you start to feel worse about your experience, it might be helpful to practice self-distancing, which involves imagining yourself as an impartial observer in your experience. A 2021 study published in Frontiers in Psychology examined whether self-distancing could reduce negative self-talk and aggressive behavior in college athletes. Although the study only included 40 athletes, the research (which builds on older studies) did find that shifting point-of-view or adopting a third-person perspective can help reduce aggressive behavior, negative self-talk, and (to a lesser degree) anger. To do this, you can visualize yourself as a “fly on the wall” and watch the events that are bothering you play out in a more impersonal way. You might also shift from using first-person pronouns to third-person. So instead of saying, “I’m so angry because…” you might say, “She’s so angry because…” It might sound weird, but it really might be helpful if exploring things from a personal perspective is making you angrier.

4. Now, try to pinpoint your triggers.

When you decide to examine your rage, random memories, thoughts, and emotions can arise. Some of those thoughts might include name-calling and colorful language (no judgment). But there’s probably valuable information lurking underneath the surface too.

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