How To Use Meditation For Anger

Updated July 11, 2022 by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Anger is a common emotion; everyone, from the tiniest child to the oldest adult, feels anger regularly. Anger in and of itself is not problematic. It can be a useful tool in moving you to action, revealing areas of pain or frustration, and indicating the need for boundaries or healing. There are instances, however, in which anger can become problematic and even dangerous, necessitating the development of reliable anger coping skills.

Learn To Cope With Anger Through Meditation

Anger: A Quick Review

Anger is numbered among the basic human emotions and can be observed in people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Like the other basic emotions ascribed to human beings, anger is considered essential to the overall survival and function of people. Anger is typically tied to a "fight or flight" response in psychology and may offer a window into survival instincts designed to keep humans safe after millennia of evolution. An angry response is not, by default, a negative response, but physical changes in the body in response to anger, most notably increased heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure, can prove harmful over time.

Anger on its own is not considered a pitfall or a danger. With improper management, however, anger can escalate, progressing to violent behavior or growing into a chronic condition, which places an enormous amount of stress on the body. Constantly experiencing anger leads to chronic health conditions, including physical conditions such as hypertension, and mental conditions such as anxiety. Fortunately, using proper responses and strategies, dealing with anger can be a healthy process.

Meditation: An Anger Management Exercise

Anger management skills do not often come naturally; instead, managing anger is usually learned through professional counseling, introspection, body awareness, and a careful understanding of your motives and the motives of others. Anger management strategies range from simple breathing exercises to more complex systems involving therapy, medication regimens, and intensive evaluation. Although the methods to treat anger vary widely based on background, the severity of the situation, and availability of treatment, there are numerous methods you can enlist to begin your anger management process, including a consistent meditation practice.

Meditation has often been dismissed as a religious tradition or a mysticism practice, but increasing bodies of research are revealing that far from being a religious practice, meditation offers proven benefits for emotional, mental, and even physical wellbeing. Meditation has been linked to greater feelings of peace and contentment, which can help control potentially harmful or unhealthy methods of expressing anger.

Meditation practices do not have to be complex or deeply involved to be effective; one study found that only 20 minutes of meditation was required to demonstrate a measurable reduction in the body's response to anger, including lower blood pressure, heart rates, and respiratory rates. The reduction in potentially harmful physical reactions to stress remained consistent in those who regularly practiced meditation, as these participants were able to recall stressful events without experiencing a powerful reaction. Study participants learned to respond carefully to anger-inducing stimuli rather than being thrust into the tumult of angry reactions.

How To Deal With Anger Using Meditation

While meditation can be a powerful tool in your arsenal, beginning a meditation practice from scratch can prove difficult. Most people find their minds wandering easily and cannot readily settle down to truly sit and clear their minds. To begin, start slow; a 20-minute practice does not have to be the initial goal. Starting with two minutes and increasing in two-minute increments creates a strong foundation for consistent, reliable meditation practice.

Although any form of meditation can be useful, guided meditation practices are a great starting point. Of note is the Loving Kindness Meditation (LKM), which has been studied and regularly demonstrates a correlation to increased happiness, decreased feelings of stress, and a greater ability to experience empathy and compassion. Each of these changes has the potential to improve reactions to anger and can weaken the negative effects of anger altogether.

This is not the only effective type of meditation, however; simply focusing on a word as you breathe in and out, holding a particular posture, or focusing on your breath are all useful meditation methods. These habits can begin with or without the help of a group or designated teacher and can be employed in any situation. This is perhaps one of the greatest aspects of meditation: ultimately, meditation requires only your presence and your focus to function properly and create change.

Two Heads Are Better Than One: Anger Management Groups

Meditation does not have to be practiced alone in a bare room with naught but a pillow on the floor, while gentle instrumental music filters in and out of your consciousness. Meditation may be practiced in a group setting, with an experienced practitioner guiding you and others into a successful meditative state. Many yoga studios offer group meditation classes, as do some community centers and mental health facilities. This particular format for meditation can be particularly useful for anyone who struggles to engage with new ideas or activities, as you will be guided carefully and can refer to others for assistance and support.

Finding a group to meditate with could even be an online affair; meditation need not create even more tension or stress in your life as you work to find a group to meditate with. You can meditate from the comfort of your couch, with your computer or phone by your side. There are apps designed to offer online group meditation, or you could create your own digital community. Online group meditation is helpful for anyone seeking a community to meditate with but lacks the large support system found in major cities or meditation hubs.

Coping With Anger Through Regular Meditation

Although meditation does begin to show positive effects quickly, it is not a quick, once-in-a-while strategy to keep anger at bay. Meditation offers its practitioners the chance to slow down, deeply feel, and assess experiences and emotions as they come rather than immediately reacting to whatever emotion has arisen. This is particularly helpful about anger, as anger is so often the emotion tied to violence, fear, and dramatic emotional upset. With consistent use meditation can prove to be an effective antidote to angry reactivity and can help users channel and experience anger in a whole, healthy way.

Meditation is not always the sole answer to eradicating or sorting through anger issues; although meditation can certainly help quell seemingly insurmountable bouts of fury, some instances require additional help. Many therapists and counselors can incorporate meditation into ongoing anger management coaching and similar avenues to create a meditation practice that is unique to your specific goals and needs.

Some people, for instance, simply hope to experience fewer outbursts of anger, hoping instead for feelings of contentment. Others are desperate to find anything capable of satiating the roaring hunger their anger creates, and the corresponding violence it triggers. In both of these instances, meditation can be used to tailor-make a treatment plan involving personal meditation tools and routines including improving self-talk, creating more space for compassion and empathy, and considering others' perspectives. Improving anger is not a matter of dismissing your feelings altogether, but determining what is at the root of chronic anger, and healing the beliefs and experiences creating powerful, negative responses.

Meditation In A Professional Setting

Self-administered meditation routines might only take you so far before the need for a more regimented and powerful practice rises. In these instances, professional meditation interventions can be employed. These interventions can be delivered through a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or counselor, or a meditation instructor with a background in mental health. As with basic meditation practices, professional settings can be solitary endeavors or group efforts depending on your needs and comfort level.

Learn To Cope With Anger Through Meditation

Professional meditation interventions can also be helpful for those struggling to identify the common denominator in their emotional outbursts. While anger is to be expected, constant bouts of anger-including bouts of anger which feel uncontrollable or overwhelming-are indicative of a deeper issue than a simple upset in your day. A professional can help identify the cause of your anger as a whole and work to unravel the beliefs, fears, or traumas responsible for anger's onset and eventual lashing-out using meditation practices during your sessions. One study found that meditation had a powerful effect on elevated levels of anger and aggression in youth, with the participants reporting significantly improved levels of aggression and anger one month after treatment.

Working with a professional to create an anger management strategy that is effective for you and your unique needs does not have to be an impossible task. Applying the principles of meditation in a therapeutic setting can take a simple meditation practice to another level for those who are struggling to see the positive effects of meditation on their anger. As with group meditation, therapeutic meditation can be engaged in on a face-to-face basis or online, using services such as those offered by BetterHelp. Whatever format you choose to use, meditation can be a powerful tool in your goal to improve your response to anger and create longer-lasting feelings of contentment and peace.

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