5 Ways to Hack Anger
1. Be Grateful
Tony Robbins has said you can’t be angry and grateful at the same time. It’s just impossible. You also can’t be fearful and grateful at the same time. Fear and anger are emotions that dominant and wreck us in our everyday interactions or conversations with one another. So spend some time really feeling grateful, like deep in your bones, in your soul. That level of gratitude can change your state and how you feel. Studies have shown, and in my own experience, writing it down seems to be much more effective, and really embody the gratitude. I use the Five Minute Journal to write down what I’m grateful for every day, but you could use any journal. What I also like about the Five Minute Journal is that it asks you to write at the end of the day “What were three amazing things that happened?” This cues your mind into a state of gratitude at the end of the day, which I think can be very calming and relaxing. Especially, for those of us who have “monkey mind” or tend to worry and have severe anxiety at night. Often, this is the cause of an overactive brain that is thinking of the future. Gratitude brings us back to the present moment and makes us realize everything is going to be alright.
This is another hack that I’ve been experimenting with and it’s helped immediately get me out of a state of funk. Especially when my wife does something to trigger me and make me want to change my state. Something I learned through the Bulletproof Coaching Program, was that when we’re triggered it probably has to do with something in the past. So smile at it, and welcome the emotion. Dr Mark Atkinson teaches students to welcome the energy, the emotion, and say, “I’m pleased you’re here.” The neat thing about this, is you’re not running from your emotions or burying them, you’re taking them head on, but you’re building awareness around the emotion and immediately changing your state for the better.
3. The Timer Principle
All top performers I’ve read about set a time to be angry. Meaning they understand anger will arise and things are going to happen and get in their way, but they set a timer, and after that timer goes off, they tell themselves they can no longer be angry. Hal Elrod sets a timer for five minutes. He feels this gives him enough time to feel and experience the emotions, and then move on. Tony Robbins does something where he performs a gratefulness practice for about 90 seconds to help change his state.
4. Change Your Focus
Many times, we’re so focused on things or issues or people that we can’t see beyond it. If I told you while you’re walking or driving outside, to focus all the things that you see that are brown. Keep focusing on them, yes, keep focusing, ok stop. Now tell me all the things that you saw that were green. You probably couldn’t tell me a single thing, because your focus was so intent on seeing brown. The mind is a powerful thing, and has the ability to focus on one thing if you let it. So to hack this, try changing your focus outwards, beyond yourself, beyond just the person or thing that is upsetting you. This goes back to gratitude, but thinking of all the things that are great right now in your life. Or maybe think to yourself, “What’s great about this problem right now?”
In reading Vishen Lakhiani’s book, The Code of the Extraordinary Mind, he talks about going to Seattle to do Dave Asprey’s 40 years of Zen program, which is a week-long program that costs about $15,000. He said the biggest takeaway from that program was learning to forgive. Forgiveness radically changed the brain. This makes sense, because we are all carrying baggage from our past. Whether we were abused, or yearned someone’s love and attention growing up, we have become a reflection of our past. That baggage continues to weigh us down; in our decision making, how we interact with our partners, and how we show up in the world. I think forgiveness is easier said than done, but like gratitude, it is a powerful tool to dissipate anger and all the negative emotions that hijack us so often.