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The past year has been an emotional roller coaster. From natural disasters to disastrous discord, it was like trying to keep your balance on a fun-house moving walkway that was, let’s face it, anything but fun. But as you grappled with fear and confusion and sought hope and joy, didn’t it all sometimes just make you mad?
Is It Bad to Be Mad?
Anger is a normal human emotion — natural but much maligned — and if you had a dollar for every time someone said, don’t be mad, you’d march off to the bank with a fistful of greenbacks. So is there really an upside to anger? According to Michael Mantell, Ph.D., cognitive behavior coach and author of The Link Is What You Think (CreateSpace, 2017), the answer is yes.
“Using the sense of physical power, energy, and feelings of invulnerability and control that sometimes comes with anger can be motivating,” Mantell explains. “It can be the trigger that allows you to leave your job or an abusive relationship.”
Using anger as a motivator for positive change is beneficial, but it’s still not easy to experience hard feelings. This is especially true for women who often face “anger discrimination,” a scenario in which angry female professionals are seen as less-than by others in comparison to their male counterparts, according to research published in Psychological Science.
“For many centuries, anger was considered ‘unfeminine,’” Mantell says. “Angry men were rendered as powerful. [But] anger without action is ineffectual. Wise people, women, recognize that using anger for action eliminates impotent helplessness and turns anger into power, influence, authority and competence.”
So how do you transform anger into power? These expert- and research-backed tips can help you move from a place of mad into a space of glad. Yes, it will take some work, but eventually, you will turn that frown upside down.
Express, Don’t Suppress
Internalizing anger has been linked to a myriad of health problems, and research published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research that followed 700 people for 12 years found a direct correlation between high levels of emotional suppression and all-cause and cancer-related mortality. Learn how to accept that you’re angry, and find ways of managing and expressing your emotions in a more positive and productive way.
Find Your Why
Once you’ve accepted your anger, it’s time to determine why you’re feeling that way. “See your anger as information — what is your anger trying to communicate to you?” says Margarita Tartakovsky, MS. For example, imagine someone has spoken to you in a way that’s unkind or disrespectful. “Your anger can then inspire you to talk to that person and maintain your boundary,” she says.
Flip the Script
Find ways to turn anger into forward, positive progress. “While anger can be fiery and volatile, it also can be productive and effective — a creative tool,” Tartakovsky says. For instance, the American Psychological Association notes that anger can lead to significant social change, citing the women’s suffrage and civil rights movements as examples.
It’s a pretty volatile world, and 24/7 global news coverage isn’t helping anything. Step away from the things that rile you up — social media, television, radio — and let yourself be happily distracted by positive alternatives such as playing with your kids or engaging in calming or creative activities such as painting.
Work Out Your Emotions
Exercise works in your favor when it comes to managing and dispelling anger, and indeed, if you’ve ever taken a boxing or kickboxing class, you know the cathartic experience of punching and kicking a heavy bag. “Sometimes it takes physical activity like a workout, a run, a walk, to [shift your thoughts],” Mantell says. “You help yourself move from complacently spinning with harmful angry thoughts to resolutely owning your power.”
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