Self Help

9 Healthy Ways to Channel Anger and Find Inner Peace

Human behaviour is vividly complex and we possess a variety of emotions. A common misconception around emotions is that of perceiving them as either positive or negative. It is important to realise that all kinds of emotions reside in each one of us. It’s just the degree and intensity that varies. Another way to perceive emotions is to see them as healthy and unhealthy. Happiness, excitement, love and gratitude are all examples of healthy emotions, whereas feelings like guilt, jealousy, and anger are unhealthy, and thus, viewed as undesirable. 

A research by An et al., (2017) on “Exploring Positivity and Negativity in Six Basic Emotions” about two sides of emotions and cross-cultural differences revealed that emotions comprise both positivity and negativity rather than residing on a single continuum between negative and positive. Regarding anger, Easterners reported stronger positivity towards anger compared to Westerners, particularly when it came to the cognitive aspect of it. In most countries, anger is viewed as rather negative, but to Koreans (and to some extent, Chinese), anger has a more positive impact.

As per the Child Psychologist, Mannat Kunra, “Understanding and accepting anger as a natural emotion is crucial, as it is not something to be ashamed of. Like other emotions, anger should be embraced and acknowledged. However, when experiencing intense emotions such as anger or anxiety, it is suggested to first calm down. This is because during such intense emotional states, our frontal cortex, responsible for rational thinking, becomes inhibited. As a result, we may act inappropriately, leading to unhealthy expressions of anger. Moreover, such behavior can instill fear in others.”

Read More: 9 Key Teachings of Budhha that will help you gain Inner peace

This is consistent with Park et al. (2013). This suggests that anger and its expression may have a more positive connotation in East Asian cultures. In our society, many emotions are viewed as negative. Unsurprisingly, anger is one of them. The more negative, the more undesirable. But one can learn to model their behaviour and find strategies to channelise their anger in a way that is not only accepted but also healthy and desirable. Here we’ll discuss some constructive ways to express one’s anger —

1. Changing the Environment 

Anger causes physiological arousal that can manifest itself in the form of increased heart rate, blood pressure, and sweating. At such times, changing the environment can calm the nervous system. A simple walk into nature can also make one feel better. More intense forms of physical activity can include workout and gym. A large chunk of research has shown exercise to be a potential deterrent against anger.

“Try to calm yourself using deep breathing techniques or box breathing. These techniques activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and reducing the physiological symptoms of anger Once you get calmed down, try to engage in activity you like in order to distract yourself such as painting, dancing, gaming or watching your favourite web series.” – Mannat Kunra

2. Engaging in Sports 

Parents are often recommended that if a child is too aggressive, they should consider making them join a sports club where their anger gets channelised in a more constructive way. The child can play sports as an alternative to unhealthy behaviours like verbal or physical abuse in order to control their emotions and let go of pent-up frustration. For example, basketball provides a good outlet. Along the process, learners also develop discipline and fairplay as they learn to direct their anger into constructive acts of collaboration, physical exertion, and emotional regulation.

3. Taking a Pause

Embracing pause at difficult times can prove to be very useful. It is very common to react impulsively, or do inappropriate actions when fueled with anger. But maturity lies in taking a pause and detaching oneself from the moment to induce a more relaxed state of mind. One can resort to self talk and breathing techniques for the same. Positive self talk allows individuals to challenge their negative talk and reframe their perspective. Combining this with breathing exercises can create space between their initial emotional response and their subsequent actions. This pause provides an opportunity to assess the situation more rationally and choose a more appropriate course of action. Rather than being driven solely by anger, individuals can make conscious decisions based on reason and consideration for others.

According to Associate Professor – Psychology Dr. Nidhi Mishra, “when we talk about anger and how it affects us, we can say that it affects us holistically. And in psychology, we talk about the biopsychosocial model. Whenever we are talking about the biopsychosocial model, we are saying that biologically it affects our body system. Psychologically it impacts our mental health and socially it influences our relationship dynamics. So, that way we see it has a very detrimental effect on the overall health of the individual.”

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Quite similar to taking a pause, STOP is a mindfulness based technique that serves as a powerful tool to ground oneself in the present moment and face challenging situations with greater ease and clarity. It is an acronym and can be explained as follows—

  • Stop: The first step is to pause and stop what you are doing. It allows one to acknowledge the current state and redirect their focus away from distractions.
  • Take a deep breath: Following the pause, individuals need to take a deep breath. It helps to center the body and mind through attention and relaxation.
  • Observe: Next, one should simply observe their thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations without much analysis. It promotes a state of mindfulness.
  • Proceed: Finally, one can continue with their task, thus proceeding with a more mindful and intentional response.

While taking a pause is a more flexible strategy for momentarily stepping back from a situation, the STOP mindfulness technique provides a structured framework for practicing mindfulness.

“To express anger in a healthy manner, it is important to take a time-out or break. Encouraging people to step away from the situation or distance themselves from the target of their anger allows them to regain composure and control over their emotions. This break provides an opportunity to cool down and gather one’s thoughts before addressing the situation.” – Mannat Kunra

5. Talking Cure

Some of the situations require opting for an unusual approach. Sometimes, a small rant session with one of your friends or trusted others can help process the discomfort that comes along with anger. It is also desirable as one might receive varied opinions and gain a new perspective about the situation that compels you to rethink. Sometimes our mind plays tricks on us, and things are not as difficult as they seem to be. 

6. Creative mediums

In recent years, art therapy has gained prominence, especially under anger management. It does not necessarily mean drawing or painting, trying a creative medium as simple as doodling can too help to a great extent. Expressing anger through creative outlets has been repeatedly emphasized. As put forth by Gupta (2023), means of self expression like writing, painting, or dancing can help release pent up emotions and convey one’s feelings more positively. By doing so, a potentially negative emotion can be transformed into something creative and constructive.

On this, Mannat Kunra says, “Since children have difficulty in expressing such intense emotions in verbal form. When working with children, encourage them to express their anger through creative outlets such as art, music, or drama or play activities such as miniatures or sand which will allow them to express their pent-up emotions in the form of projection which makes them feel safe and comforting. Engaging in creative activities allows children to externalize and process their emotions in a non-threatening way, promoting emotional regulation and self-expression.’

7. Journaling

One of the most commonly suggested self help tools is journaling. Writing is an incredible approach to express the suppressed thoughts that are buried deep down inside and one might not share openly. Allowing oneself to feel and validate those feelings is very crucial for emotional well-being. Anger as an emotion is no different. In order to fit in, we tend to suppress such emotions that often accompany shame and rejection. Somewhat different from typical journaling, an anger journal usually includes specific prompts that can help in getting angry feelings out. 

As per Mannat Kunra, “Write down your feelings of anger in a journal. This helps you to process your emotions and gain insight into the underlying causes of the anger. The cathartic effect of journaling is supported by the theory of catharsis, which suggests that expressing emotions can lead to emotional relief and psychological growth.”

8. Communication

Suppression is not always the right approach. Redirecting one’s feelings into seemingly positive ways by hitting the gym, engaging in sports, or sharing with others are indeed effective, but not in the long run. Acknowledging that it is equally healthy to have difficult conversations in a relationship is an important step. Bottling up emotions leads to resentment and further conflicts most of the time. However, open communication through active listening and setting up boundaries is one of the most healthy ways of expression. It promotes mutual understanding and strengthens trust and security. Afterall, “communication is the key”.

9. Other Outlets

There are various ways to release your anger like hitting a pillow, scrunching a paper, hitting a punching bag, or squeezing a ball, and they actually work. There are no right or wrong ways when it comes to expressing oneself. What might work for you, might not work for your friend, or vice versa. The only way is to keep trying different coping styles, and understand what works the best for you! 

“Write letters expressing anger to the person or situation that has upset them. This can provide a sense of catharsis and closure, even if the letters are not actually sent.” – Mannat Kunra, Child Psychologist.

Human beings are self motivated creatures. Everyone desires self improvement and there are plethora of resources to learn from. Various mental health organisations and other institutions organise both free as well as paid workshops, webinars, and share anger management techniques as a part of self help courses, which are easily accessible and can be attended. Small steps into working on ourselves can take us a long way. Emotions like anger shouldn’t be viewed as bad or unwanted. It only makes us human. Anger is often an obvious and natural response to certain situations. In select situations, it can be important to express your anger but you must ensure that your behaviour remains justifiable and respectful at all times.

References +
  • An, S., Ji, L. J., Marks, M., & Zhang, Z. (2017). Two Sides of Emotion: Exploring Positivity and Negativity in Six Basic Emotions across Cultures. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 610.
  • Expressing anger appropriately.
  • Gupta, A. (2023, April 7). “Transforming Anger into Creativity: The Surprising Benefits of Using Anger Constructively.”
  • Ferguson, S. (2022, December 20). How to practice STOP Mindfulness. Psych Central.
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