Anger can be all-consuming, directing your thoughts, actions, and words. It may cause you to say and do things that are completely out of character. In fact, when you are angry, you may even feel as though you are out of control. And it may very well be that you are out of control because severe hormonal imbalance, neurotransmitter deficiency or surplus, and chemical signals may hijack the system.
Because hormones are so tied to feelings of frustration and anger, women tend to be angrier during a hormone surge right before menstruation. But many more men than women have anger issues because testosterone, the primary male sex hormone, can contribute to aggression and anger.
But new technologies make it possible to regain control of anger. That’s right—you can defend against the chemical signals when they try to hijack your mind and body. These technologies have the goal of keeping all physiological processes in balance so that your logical, calm, and collected cerebral cortex remains in control. Here are the top 5 ways to successfully manage anger:
1. Stress balls
A squishy stress ball is a marvelously simple technology that channels feelings of aggression and anger into an innocuous object. It helps you remain in control of your actions and words because whenever you feel a surge of anger, you can whip out your stress ball and start squeezing. Stress balls put you in the driver’s seat of your anger.
Cheaper and more portable than therapy, a stress ball can easily be tucked into a briefcase or purse and carried with you wherever you go. You can even pack it along in your suitcase when you head for your next vacation, because all kinds of stressful surprises can pop up during a vacation.
But what are the mechanisms by which stress balls accomplish anger reduction? First stress balls divert attention from the anger-inducing situation. In addition, the act of squeezing a stress ball stimulates the nerves in your hands that are connected to parts of the brain associated with emotions. This brain stimulation can even trigger the release of endorphins—the feel good chemicals. So with a stress ball, you may be able to directly exert control over your mood. Finally, squeezing and releasing a stress ball tightens and relaxes muscles, providing muscle relaxation benefits.
2. Virtual Reality and Video Games
Virtual reality and video games can help you gain control over your anger by putting you in anger-inducing situations and monitoring your response. A well-trained therapist can engineer a virtual reality featuring many of your known anger triggers. He or she may monitor your physiological responses throughout the virtual reality experience and alert you when they are out of balance so that you become more aware of your anger response.
Video games are especially effective in helping children manage anger. In one study, children with known anger issues played a game in which they shot down space aliens. While they played, their physiological status was live-tracked by researchers. Whenever the children became overexcited (i.e., their heart rate skyrocketed), they lost the ability to shoot. Such video games are proven to help children gain control over their feelings of anger.
3. Phone Apps
There are many newly-developed apps that are specifically designed to help you manage feelings of anger. Here are some examples:
1. Breathe2Relax instructs users in deep breathing exercises and educates them on the bodily effects of stress and anger.
2. Pacifica features a mood tracker, body scan and muscle relaxation exercises, and daily antianxiety tips.
3. GPS for the Soul was engineered by Arianna Huffington and Deepak Chopra to use biofeedback to determine current stress levels. Then it helps you manage stress with meditations.
4. Anger Management Hypnosis this app provides hypnosis for people struggling with anger management.
5. Bottle Smash this app helps distract you from the thing that is really bothering you by playing a cathartic game of bottle smashing.
4. Meditation and Mindfulness
Regular meditation and a consistent attitude of mindfulness can nip feelings of anger in the bud. In fact, meditation and mindfulness can rewire your nervous system so that you no longer have the same reactions to stimuli. That’s right—anger is not an inherent part of your personality. If you become easily angered, you can become less easily bothered through meditation and mindfulness.
During a meditation practice, you will focus on your breath and still the mind. You will attempt to shut out all outside distractions (including the person or thing that is causing anger). You may do a body scan or simply breathe. Whatever you do, you will be cultivating feelings of peace and compassion rather than anger and frustration.
Mindfulness is a life perspective rather than a daily activity. A mindful person does not spend time in the past or future, but focuses on what is happening right now. Most anger is caused by things that have long since passed. For this reason, cultivating and attitude of mindfulness will not only enable you to live fully in the moment, it will also prevent you from being bogged down by anger triggers of the past.
Meditation and mindfulness are not new technologies—in fact, they have been around for thousands of years in the East. But they are relatively new practices in the West!
There are many books with ideas that will help distract you from your feelings of anger or help replace those feelings with healthier feelings. For instance, Go F#ck Yourself I’m Coloring is an adult swear word coloring book geared toward people who want to manage anger. Studies have shown that coloring can be a therapeutic exercise for children and adults.
In addition The Cow in the Parking Lot is a new book that explains Buddhist principles to educate readers on how to recognize and address the unmet needs that fuel anger. Once you recognize these feelings, anger will dissolve.
Managing anger is a noble goal, and one that can affect your social relationships and physical health. Studies show that anger induces the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals, which in the long term, can cause chronic diseases. Whether you choose to use a stress ball, meditation, an app, video games, or books, be sure to check out the ways that new technology can help you manage your anger.