Anger is often a challenging emotion to control, but with a little practice, you can channel your anger in a more positive way.
If you’ve ever felt a drive for action after being angry, you’ve experienced a positive aspect of this human emotion. Anger can be a great motivator, whether it’s after feeling wronged, being beaten in a challenge, or anything else.
This drive for action after a surge of anger can be incredibly useful and productive for helping you make changes in your life and identifying what is most important to you. You can think of anger as a useful piece of information.
However, you may have also seen the other side and felt anger’s interference in your life. Perhaps the feeling of anger makes you too reactionary and causes you to act in ways you regret later.
Knowing how to use your anger to your advantage can be a life changing skill. Here’s what you need to know.
When you learn how to channel anger, it becomes a powerful tool.
As the American Psychological Association (APA) points out, anger can help solve problems.
When you turn anger into motivation, it can help you self-advocate and make positive changes. It kindles self-improvement and inspires leadership against injustice.
Research from 2017 revealed that anger has been important to human survival because it helps people face and overcome obstacles. Anger is also a quick adaptive response that protects against environmental threats.
Suppressing anger isn’t recommended. According to 2019 research, this can lead to anxiety and physical issues, such as:
According to 2019 research, suppressed anger is sometimes linked to violent behaviors, leading to crime and abuse.
There are ways to redirect anger so that it becomes a positive force in your life. Some to consider include:
- Stop to consider why you’re angry.
- Look for what you can change in the situation.
- Identify your emotional sore points.
- Discover new boundaries to set.
- Use your anger as motivation.
- Focus on only what really matters.
- Exercise to blow off steam.
- Channel your anger into productive action.
Anger doesn’t exist in a void — there’s usually an underlying obstacle or issue. If you assess what’s making you angry, you may be able to find the source of the issue instead of directing your anger at the wrong person or problem.
For instance, if a person tells you bad or frustrating news, you may feel angry and believe your anger is directly due to that person.
But after quickly considering why you’re angry, you might realize you’re angry at the situation, not the messenger. This could stop you from raising your voice at someone who simply might be trying to help.
Sometimes anger can be a catalyst for progress. If your anger stems from repeated frustration with your situation, you can channel your anger into making some changes.
This requires first discovering the source of your anger and then considering what about your situation you can change.
- an unhealthy relationship you need to get out of
- a bad living situation
- a toxic work environment
Take inventory and then consider what’s a realistic first step for a positive change in your life.
Self-awareness can be incredibly helpful for controlling and channeling your emotions effectively. In a moment of anger, if you can pinpoint why you’re upset, you may be able to learn more about your sore points and emotional catalysts. This can help you prepare for the next time you are in a similar position.
For example, maybe you tend to react to anger when you feel like you’re being criticized. Perhaps there’s a particular criticism that sparks feelings of anger. It might be helpful to consider why that criticism prompts so much anger.
A helpful way to discover these triggers is to journal when you feel angry. Another option is to pause and take a few deep breaths when you feel anger coming on. As you’re breathing, try to take a moment or two to consider the source of your anger.
Maybe you have unresolved insecurities to work through. Or maybe your partner, parent, or whoever is commenting needs a friendly reminder that you don’t like discussing that topic.
A little bit of self-awareness about your emotional spurs can help lead to healthier communication with loved ones or colleagues.
It can also help point to emotions or insecurities you’ve been subconsciously suppressing. If this is the case, and you tend to resort to anger, you may want to speak with a mental health counselor or learn more about ways to manage your emotions.
Gaining personal insight is a key part of self-improvement. Anger contributes by helping you discover your values and priorities. When someone ignores your values, the anger you feel tells you how important those values are to you.
Instead of staying angry, try setting boundaries. If you find that a person is continuously ignoring your values and needs, and you are continuously feeling angry because of them, this may be a sign that it’s time to distance yourself from that person.
Anger can be highly motivating. What if someone in your life suggests you’re not capable of acquiring your dream job? Allow the doubt other people may have about you to fuel your fire. You know your worth and your abilities, and soon others will, too.
When you find yourself feeling angry, try to take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “Will this matter in a year?” Weighing whether something is worth your time and energy is an important skill, which anger can help you learn.
Having to wait for your spin class in 3 days might not help you regulate the anger you feel today. But a treadmill in your basement, a flight of stairs, or even a set of hand weights can help you immediately channel anger into power that can increase your fitness.
Exercise is a good way to release anger. The controlled breathing required might help restore a feeling of calm is a bonus. Channeling your anger into fitness, therefore, can be beneficial for your physical and mental health.
Research from 2020 links anger to the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which helps your fight, flight, or freeze nervous system response. This means anger is energizing.
You can sit and seethe or work off your anger in a positive way. Rather than trying to remain calm, you could use your energy for tasks like cleaning, cutting the grass, or anything that requires physical involvement.
Anger is an important human emotion. But it often requires some practice to channel as a motivational tool and positive force. Without practice, you may be more likely to lash out when you feel angry or try to suppress the emotion entirely.
If you experience anger regularly, it may help while you’re calm to plan positive channeling strategies. This is so you’re prepared for the next time you feel escalated.
Also, if you’re interested in more ideas from an anger management professional, try the APA’s psychologist locator tool to find an expert near you.
Looking for a therapist but unsure where to start? Psych Central’s How to Find Mental Health Support resource can help.