19 Strategies on How to Let Go of Anger and Resentment
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You can feel it happening again. It may creep up slowly, but it progresses quickly. You know you are about to get angry.
Anger is an uncontrollable force that takes us over and leads us to do or say things that we wouldn't normally think we were capable of. When you hold on to it, anger is a powerful force that can take over your emotions, leaving you feeling helpless.
Holding on to anger leads to adverse effects, both physically and emotionally. Eventually, it will cause you to respond to situations in an impulsive and irrational manner, which can compromise your personal and professional relationships.
If you’ve ever said something mean or yelled at someone and later felt like a jerk, you know exactly what I am talking about. But do you know how to let go of anger?
Fortunately, it’s possible to learn how to let go of anger and hurt. In this article, we will detail 19 strategies that can help you deal with this emotion in a healthy way that will help you grow as a person. You will learn how to let go, and move on.
(Side note: One simple way to let go of anger is to build the "right" mindset. To learn how, I recommend checking out this book that will help you learn how to create calmness in your life and eliminate negative thinking.)
Let’s get to it…
Why Recurring Anger Can Be a Dangerous Habit
Many studies have linked anger and resentment to heart disease and hypertension. The physical energy anger takes from us can have long-term side effects, such as high blood pressure and stroke.
To begin the process of letting go of your anger, it's important to understand why you’ve become angry in the first place. Anger is a second-hand emotion (or substitute emotion) we use to avoid a primary emotion such as fear, vulnerability, or pain.
There are many reasons we may experience pain, such as experiencing physical or emotional abuse from a partner or parent. It’s not the experience alone that has made you angry—your thought process has also contributed.
Memories can trigger anger, assumptions, and interpretations of a situation that can make people think someone is out to hurt them. These distorted thinking patterns can jeopardize any relationship you have and lead you to suffer from undue stress. While anger is a natural emotion to have and something that everyone experiences, it often comes in the form of an unwanted and irrational feeling.
You can learn how to let go of resentment.
The good news is, this anger habit can be reversed, and you can learn how to let go of resentment.
Chronic feelings of anger are a learned trait.
You may develop chronic anger if you grew up in a hostile household and were often the victim of someone else's angry behaviors in the past, or if you were somehow rewarded for your anger (such as being feared by peers for bullying behavior as a child).
Some ways to start reversing these feelings are becoming aware of your anger, preparing yourself to react differently in the future, taking action by seeking help to manage your emotions, and then maintaining your new mindset.
There is a lot of learning and self-exploration involved in letting go of anger. Doing this is an ongoing task that requires discipline and a change in perspective. This is a process that is not easy, and it often requires significant outside support. Here are some strategies to consider to help you begin to let go of this secondary emotion.
19 Strategies on How to Let Go of Anger
1. Recognize the source of your anger.
Recognize when you are feeling angry, and try to determine the cause. Is the cause something you can change or control, or is it out of your hands? Further, is your anger being caused by someone who you will never see again, such as a grocery clerk or a server at a restaurant? Or is a family member or friend making you angry?
This is important to recognize because anger that you feel when dealing with people who are close to you involves an ongoing interaction. To handle these situations, the best strategies to implement are escaping the situation, relaxing, restructuring your thoughts, or expressing your anger directly in a calm and appropriate tone.
Another way to recognize the source of your anger is to step back and evaluate your life. Are you where you expected yourself to be at this point? It is possible that you are experiencing built-up frustration because your life is not meeting your expectations or you are not living up to the standards that you perceive other people have for you.
Unhealthy relationships and past experiences are also a common source of anger. When one person is often feeling vulnerable, or is triggered by a past pain in their relationship, it can lead to feelings of anger to cover up this pain. If you can identify the past experience that is continuing to impact your life in a negative way, you have to face that situation head-on so you can let it go.
2. Practice relaxation techniques.
Using simple relaxation strategies can help you soothe your angry feelings. If you practice these strategies often, you will find that it is easier to resort to them when you feel anger emerging. It is important to find which techniques work best for you to help you process your thoughts with a clearer mindset.
For example, many people enjoy aromatherapy to help them relax. Whether you use essential oils in a bath or in a diffuser, this is a great stress reliever and relaxation tool that is easily accessible. Another common technique is to listen to soothing music. This can help take your mind away from the situation at hand, and help you re-center your thoughts.
Here are some blog posts that will provide you with a wealth of information about things you can do to relax. This post goes over the best essential oil diffusers on the market if you want to be able to benefit from your oils quickly and easily. If you need suggestions for oils, here are some that are great for promoting focus. And these are the best for relieving anxiety.
Practicing mindfulness is another very effective method of relaxation. If you are not familiar with mindfulness, here is a post that will explain how to practice this method of thinking. Once you understand what mindfulness is, here are some exercises you can practice on a regular basis.
3. Take a brief time out.
It is crucial to realize when it is time to take a minute for yourself. If you are doing something or talking to someone and you can sense that you have anger building up, simply excuse yourself. Walk away and take a few minutes to gather your thoughts and release the negative emotions. Take this time to think about how you want to respond before you speak.
Taking a timeout will prevent you from saying something out of anger that you might later regret. Find a quiet and relaxing place to go in case you need a break. Think about some things you could do to cool down during this time, such as slow, deep breathing and mindfulness exercises.
After your anger has subsided and before returning to the situation, consider what you will say when you return. For example, if you were talking to someone, express that you appreciate their understanding and thank them for giving you the chance to calm down.
4. Get daily exercise.
Getting physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to reduce your anger and stress. Physical exercise gives you a chance to release your emotions, so going for a walk or run every day can help calm you down in general. Exercise can also help increase the release of endorphins in your body, which will naturally make you feel better and reduce your stress levels.
Finding a healthy hobby such as exercising will relieve tension, as your mind will become occupied. Try a few things until you find something that you enjoy doing. This will help encourage you to take a break from your normal routine, and help you build your self-esteem.
5. Find workable solutions.
Instead of focusing on whatever triggered your anger, work on finding a solution to the issue at hand. Instead of staying angry, do something about it. For example, is your spouse late for dinner every night? Instead of facing this drama on a nightly basis, find a workable solution. Perhaps you can schedule meals for later in the evening, or the two of you can agree to eat on your own on certain nights.
You have to recognize the things that are out of your control, and understand that you cannot change them. Knowing what you can control will let you use your limited energy in the most effective way possible. The time you waste thinking about and trying to change situations that are out of your control could be spent on things that you do have control over, which would then allow you to make progress.
6. Don't hold grudges.
Holding grudges has more health implications for you than it does for the other person. Not only do they take up your energy, but they also make your emotional state toxic.
Even if you have been legitimately offended, which most people have, try to take an empathic perspective rather than acting like a victim. Forgiving thoughts will allow you to have a greater sense of perceived control and a reduced physiological stress response, which will help decrease your anger.
7. Practice forgiveness.
Forgiveness may look different for everyone, but it generally involves making an active decision to let go of resentful feelings and thoughts of revenge. Once this is done, your anger will no longer drain your energy, and you will be able to have peace of mind.
The act that hurt you may always be with you, but forgiveness will set you free from the control of the incident or person who caused you harm. When you are able to forgive someone else, you are not doing it for their sake. Rather, you are doing it so you can regain control of your life and move on. This doesn't mean that you are forgetting or excusing the harmful behavior, but it will bring you some peace.
8. Own your anger.
You need to learn how to control your anger before it starts to control you. To do this, acknowledge when you’re angry, and remind yourself that you can get over it. Remember that the feeling won't last, and it will only get as bad as you allow it to.
The logic of our emotions does not always make sense. For example, if you were hurt as a child by a parent and you are still holding onto that anger as an adult and waiting for someone else to fix it for you, you are never going to get over it. You have to realize that it is up to you to own your anger and address it in order to move on. You are the only person who is in control of your feelings.
9. Talk to a friend.
Reach out to a trusted friend who you know will give you their full attention. Let out your anger and frustrations to them and get their feedback. Often, when a friend knows you well, they can provide the best advice for you that can fit in with your life. A good friend may be able to reframe a situation for you and get you to see it in a different light.
It also feels good to vent. Sometimes you just need to talk something through to someone who is willing to listen, so you can get your feelings out. It might be a good idea to set some boundaries for your venting. For example, ask your friend if you can have five minutes to talk… and then only give yourself five minutes. Pay attention to the number of times you repeat yourself, and you will likely find that you do this a lot in order to provide emphasis. Set limits to ensure you keep it brief, sort out your thoughts, and focus on a solution.
10. Recite positive affirmations.
Recurring anger is an affirmation. You need to replace these negative affirmations with positive ones. You can choose to think in a way that creates a negative mental atmosphere, or you can choose to think in a way that helps develop a healthy atmosphere for you and the people around you.
Tell yourself that you are in control and no one can make you feel inferior. Doing this will help calm you down if you are beginning to feel yourself getting angry. Learn to practice both present and future affirmations so you can use this technique to prevent anger, and to deal with it in the moment when it is occurring.
11. Express yourself in a journal
Writing about your anger in a journal is one of the most effective ways to express and understand your feelings. Through writing, you can process your thoughts carefully.
Once you identify the root causes of your anger, you will have the control you need to analyze your responses. Writing about your anger will help you learn from it and take positive action to protect yourself in the future by increasing your self-awareness.
Some people choose to draw or paint what they are feeling instead of writing it down in words. This is also an effective method of journaling. Draw what your anger looks like to you, and express yourself in a creative way to help yourself move on.
12. Change your environment.
Sometimes your immediate surroundings are causing you irritation. Problems may begin to weigh you down and make you feel trapped. You can escape this by making sure you set aside personal time.
Elements in your environment may be making you more likely to get angry. For example, if you find that you often get angry in the mornings when you are rushing around and trying to get everyone up and ready for the day, try to find a way to reduce this stress the night before so you can lighten your load in the morning.
Alternatively, if you have been in a relationship that has gone sour, avoid doing anything that reminds you of the person who hurt you. This includes not going to places where you used to go together, and even not listening to songs that remind you of that person. You might need to find alternate routes to work or school to bypass areas that remind you of this person, and recreate your routine to avoid negative thoughts.
13. Become more self-aware.
Becoming more self-aware can help you prevent your anger from happening. Becoming aware of your false beliefs requires introspective work, including developing the skills to pay attention to your mind and dissect some of your negative thoughts. Once you become aware of what triggers your anger, you can apply your techniques to change the dynamics that are going on in your mind and causing your emotions.
If you are able to embrace yourself and avoid a victim mentality, the results of your self-awareness practices can lead to a permanent change. By becoming self-aware, you can identify the primary elements or feelings that trigger your anger, such as fear or pain.
Can you think of an experience you have had where you ended up laughing at something that made you mad? This moment can be transformational because humor is both healing and empowering. If you are able to laugh about something, you are able to gain power over it instead of allowing it to have power over you.
If you can't find any humor in the situation that is making you angry, turn to things that you know will make you laugh, and get into this positive frame of mind. For example, you can watch a funny movie or video, or meet up with a friend who always makes you laugh. This is a good way to change your mindset and get your mind off of whatever is making you angry.
15. Take deep breaths.
Stopping to take intentional deep breaths will force you to calm down. Stop what you are doing and count down from three while inhaling, hold it for five seconds, and then exhale. This will help you take a moment before reacting to something irrationally.
For example, imagine someone just cut you off in traffic and you can feel yourself becoming enraged. Instead of immediately reacting, take a moment for some deep and intentional breaths. This will give your body a chance to calm down, and it will give you time to think twice about how you react.
16. Use a stress-relief tool.
Stress-relief tools and toys can be used as preventative measures, or in the moment to calm you down. If you can turn your focus onto something you are playing with, or channel your aggression into a physical object, you may be able to reduce your feelings of anger.
This magnetic block sculpture toy can be made into any shape, and can help you refocus your thoughts onto a menial task. If you feel like you need something to squeeze to let out your aggression, this stress ball is great to keep with you in your bag or in your car so you can take it out at any time and use it.
If you need something that will give you a bit of inspiration, these balls have sayings on them that can play into your positive affirmations and remind you to use them when needed.
17. Avoid the person who causes you pain.
If it is possible, avoid coming into contact with the person who caused you pain. Instead, surround yourself with people who lift you up and empower you to feel good about yourself. Take control over your emotions by not allowing other people to impact them, and avoiding being around people who try to negatively affect your feelings.
After having a bad experience, avoid saying “never” and “always.” Instead, try to isolate your bad experience and realize that there are no absolutes. Sure, something may happen more than once, and you want to acknowledge that—but using words like never and always is not a rational way of thinking.
18. Be assertive.
Being assertive is an important communication skill that is very different from being aggressive. When you are assertive, you are clearly expressing yourself and defending your point of view, while still respecting other people's beliefs.
Assertive communication can help you earn the respect of other people and boost your self-esteem. It shows that you are confident in what you are talking about, and are willing to stand your ground while still maintaining self-control.
This can help reduce stress because you will know that you have clearly expressed your wants or needs to another person. In order to start being assertive, learn to say what you mean and mean what you say.
19. Don't sweat the small stuff.
Do you ever find that you are giving up happiness for minor inconveniences that are out of your control? Your happiness is largely impacted by your ability to let things go, and to realize what you can and can't control. When something happens, your initial feelings of anger are natural and unavoidable because they are created by chemical reactions in your body. But those chemicals last only about six seconds. Anything that happens after that is due to your own decision to ruminate.
Let the small things go. If someone jumped in front of you in line, don't stress over this minor event. Focus instead on the good things in your life. Pick your battles and allow your happiness to overcome your mild frustrations.
It’s clear that holding onto anger affects you both mentally and physically. The steps listed above are a great start to begin the “letting go” process and free yourself from the pain.
You can begin reversing your anger habit by taking small steps each day. Keep a mental image of how relieved you will feel once you’ve learned to let go of that pent up emotion.
Finally, one simple way to let go of anger is to build the "right" mindset. To learn how, I recommend checking out this book that will help you learn how to create calmness in your life and eliminate negative thinking.