For many people, anger is a problem that may seem to be part of their “innate” character—constantly nagging in the back of their mind, tempting them to lash out or to raise their voice at any given opportunity. For others, an issue with anger may have crept in or developed over time, changing a once-docile personality into a more irritable or offensive demeanor.
Regardless of how it has manifested itself in your life, a developing habit of anger is incredibly dangerous not only to yourself but also to others. If you find that getting angry over every little thing has become your default response, it may be time to reevaluate the way you cope with stressful or disappointing situations. To help break an angry habit, take these steps:
Recognize and admit your anger
In order to change a negative habit, you must first acknowledge the behaviors you wish to change. Angry individuals who don’t recognize their ways have no hope of changing—so it is important to be in touch with your own emotional responses. Once you have recognized your problem, commit to changing and to wanting to do better.
Talk with others to gain insight and understanding
Once you are comfortable admitting you have a problem with frequent anger, you may have very little understanding of or insight into the specifics of your predicament. Ironically, the people who are best able to help you better understand your anger are likely the very people you often get angry with: friends, family, roommates, and coworkers.
It will likely not be comfortable to approach those in your life whom you have hurt or offended with your anger—but the willingness to talk with them about your behavior and to discuss the ways you can improve may offer invaluable insight that can help you turn your life around for good.
Discover your triggers
If you struggle with a habit of anger, you may have found yourself becoming angry at nearly every little thing in your life. It is likely, however, that certain triggers control large portions of your anger—and exploring and understanding these triggers can make all the difference in learning to combat your angry feelings.
Anger can be triggered by virtually any set of circumstances, and you will need to know and understand the situations that make you particularly vulnerable. To help break your habit of anger, look at your life and consider questions like the following: Do you find yourself more vulnerable to anger during certain times of the day, such as rush hour or late at night? Does lack of food, sleep, or relaxation time make you particularly upset? Have you consistently been getting angry with the same people in your life? Do stressors such as work, finances, or education have a tendency to invoke angry emotions?
If you have been largely unaware of your problem with anger up until recently, it is quite possible you are completely unaware of your various triggers. It may be helpful to keep a log or journal of your anger for a period of several weeks in order to gain a better appreciation of anger’s pattern and influence in your life.
Have a cool-down plan
Learning to control a habit of angry reactions takes time, and you must learn to be patient with your imperfections during the process. Now that you are able to recognize your anger and to understand the reasoning behind your negative behaviors, you are ready to take action and to practice fighting back against your instincts.
One of the most helpful behaviors you can learn to help break your pattern of anger is to always have a cool-down and back-up reaction plan. When you find yourself growing angry—either with yourself or with others—you can be ready to physically or emotionally remove yourself from the situation in whichever way you find most beneficial.
Counting to ten before you speak, refusing to raise your voice, silently writing down your angry feelings, physically getting up and walking away, screaming into a pillow, throwing or punching an object, crying, focusing your breathing, taking a shower, or channeling your feelings into physical activity are all possible strategies to use when you feel angry in the moment—and all will help to distract and calm you from the powerful feelings of anger you are experiencing.
As with any habit, a tendency for anger will not be broken overnight. By becoming mindful of your anger and the role it plays in your life, however, you are well on your way to creating a more peaceful life for yourself and for your loved ones.