While it would be nice to go through life always filled with smiles and good cheer, the reality is that there are a lot of angry people walking around—and a growing number of them are women. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 43% of women believe their stress levels have increased over recent years, with almost 39% of them saying that anger or irritability is one of their symptoms of stress.
If you find yourself often filled with anger, especially when you’re not sure it’s warranted, then try taking these seven steps to let go of the negative emotion.
1. Minimize time on social media
Researchers claim that anger is the fastest-spreading emotion in the social media network world. In fact, they discovered that you’re most likely to repost or make comments on topics that really get under your skin. You may think such activity releases your pent up negativity towards the subject matter and is therefore beneficial, but the truth is that you’re actually fueling your anger rather than releasing it.
Consider spending less time on social media so you’ll be less subjected to negative posts and not as inclined to join in on the unhappy commentary.
2. Remember that your health depends on it
Experts maintain that anger can manifest in your body in ways that can slowly destroy your health. For example, holding on to feelings of anger does everything from instantly spiking your blood pressure to making it more difficult for wounds to heal. Your immune system suffers, and headaches and inflammation also become more common. Keep reminding yourself that your good health depends on letting go of anger. When you feel the urge to snap at a cashier or loved one, ask yourself if sky-high blood pressure is really worth it.
3. Give yourself time
When faced with a situation that has made you angry, know that it’ll take more than a few deep breaths to make you feel better. Studies show that while 30 seconds of deep breathing provides a sense of “pseudo calm” (in which anger can easily be retriggered) most people require a minimum of 20-60 minutes to allow the feeling to subside. Keep that in mind; having such awareness should make you avoid other situations in which you might become angry.
4. Explore a new hobby
When you focus on a new behavior, you’ll have less time to dwell on whatever is making you angry. Psychologist Michelle Roya Rad says that changing your behavior has the ability to alter your thoughts. She explains that engaging in new activities—whether it’s taking up a sport or attending an art class—can take anger off your mind. Such behavior modification not only redirects angry thoughts, but can also lead to the discovery of a new hobby or allow you to make new friends.
5. Keep track of positive moments
While it may feel like you’re being bombarded with one frustrating moment after another, it’s important to keep track of the good times in your life. I have a gratitude jar on my kitchen table and often take a minute to jot down the good moments I’ve experienced during my day, whether it was having a particularly enjoyable phone conversation with a friend or finding an unbeatable parking spot. When a foul mood strikes, I open the jar and unfold some of the notes; reading them brings a smile to my face.
By staying in tune with the goodness that’s happening around you—no matter how large or small—you’re training your brain to focus more on positive emotions that negative ones. Before you know it, your anger will diminish and issues you once felt were rage-worthy will be viewed as insignificant.
Before you think that reminiscing is a waste of time or that the past is the past, it may be helpful to mentally visit a time when anger didn’t fill your days. Try letting your mind wander to a time when you felt more joy in your life. Allow yourself to explore these thoughts, noticing any smells or even sounds that come to mind.
In a blog I wrote about the importance of niceness (which appeared in the Huffington Post), I wrote that “Trips down memory lane are enjoyable. Sometimes going back can propel us forward, too.” I truly believe that indulging in pleasant memories can soothe us and help us move on, allowing us to better cope with negative emotions.
7. Ask yourself if it’ll matter in the future
That slow-as-molasses waiter or rude driver may make you want to unleash an anger-infused rant, but ask yourself: will this really matter in my future? Is it worth getting all worked up over? Is what’s happening so serious that it’s going to create life-changing circumstances one month or a year from now? Cut the barista some slack and forget about the driver that cut you off. Don’t let the truly little things make you angry and bring you down.
Hopefully, these steps will help you let go of your anger. It won’t happen overnight, but adding some of these suggestions to your daily routine will eventually lead to changes in your behavior, mood, and even physical health.