How to let go of anger and resentment

Letting go of anger and resentment: 5 ways to live a stress-free life

Here are a few effective methods that can help you overcome anger, resentment and negative emotions for a stress-free life.
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Anger is one of the most destructive emotions, which, if left unchecked, could wreak havoc in our lives. Oftentimes, a surge of uncontrollable pent-up feelings could manifest in the form of anger and destroy your and your loved ones’ mental peace and happiness. Resentment is also closely related to anger, but it is a more complex and multidimensional emotion. Resentment usually occurs in the aftermath of a painful experience—real or perceived—such as injustice, unfair treatment, or being taken advantage of. These negative emotions are the nemeses of our mental well-being.

Modern psychology views anger as a natural and automatic response to physical or emotional pain. Howard Kassinove, anger-expert psychologist, and a fellow of the American Psychological Association explains, “Anger is associated with interpersonal conflicts, negative evaluations by others, erratic driving, property destruction, occupational maladjustment, inappropriate risk-taking, accidents, substance abuse, and so-called crimes of passion.” Moreover, regular incidents of anger could also lead to increased risks of heart disease, hypertension, insomnia and digestion problems among others.

Resentment is a mental process where we replay and re-live feelings of past hurts especially unresolved conflicts. It can cause significant issues to our mental and physical health. “When we hold on to grudges and resentment, it’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick,” says psychotherapist Angela Buttimer. She further explains, “Living in a chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increasing inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol in the body.”

Anger and resentment could be disastrous to our wellbeing. Is there a way to ensure that we do not fall prey to them? The key is to simply let go of these negative emotions without allowing them to jeopardise our lives. Here are a few key points that can help us let go of anger and resentment for a stress-free life.

Acknowledge your emotions

When you are angry, do you acknowledge your emotions or bury them within? Acceptance of difficult emotions such as anger, resentment and hurt feelings might seem like a herculean task, but ignoring them doesn’t help either. If left unaddressed, they might reemerge and torment you when you least expect it. Acceptance, rather than denial, is one of the best ways to effectively let go of anger. When a certain situation—such as a difficult workplace meeting, or a gruelling ride in a crowded bus—triggers you and induces an angry response, try to maintain an awareness of that emotion. Accept that you are feeling angry instead of denying it. Try to analyse the emotion and what caused it to arise. Once you have identified your triggers, you can better control your responses to them in the future.

Practice forgiveness

We all have been through situations where someone’s actions—verbal or physical—brought us pain and hurt our feelings. Such experiences can scar us with perpetual feelings of resentment, disgust and anger. However, holding a grudge forever may not necessarily bring us a solution. On the contrary, it might afflict us with everlasting misery and confusion. Even if it might seem difficult at first, forgiveness is an antidote for feelings of resentment and anger. Although the act that hurt or offended you might always be with you, forgiveness can free you from the grudges and bitter feelings that might be chained to your psyche. By fostering empathy and compassion towards those who hurt you, you can let go of resentment and make way for peace of mind.

Meditate or chant mantras 

Meditation is one of the most beneficial practices that can significantly reduce anger, resentment and hurt feelings. You can control your emotions better by practicing certain meditation techniques, such as mindfulness meditation. Buddhist meditation master Thich Nhat Hanh writes in his book Teachings on Love, “Breathing in, I know I am angry. Breathing out, I know that the anger is in me.” By reciting these words, you are acknowledging your anger and getting closer to its source. You can also listen to or chant mantras such as ‘Om‘ regularly to let go of feelings of anger and resentment. A 2016 study conducted by Macquarie University, Australia discovered that chanting the mystic syllable for 10 minutes can help reduce stress, depressive symptoms, anxiety and create a positive mood.

Take a break

Sometimes you might encounter unhealthy situations such as an argument or a divisive conversation, which are beyond your control. If possible, take a break and remove yourself from such situations. It is better to create space and allow things to calm down instead of adding more fuel to the fire. It’s far easier to reach an amicable solution when people are calm and composed. So, give yourself and others some time to reflect upon the situation that led to a rift. When you return, you will be in a more relaxed and peaceful state of mind.

Take a deep breath

Breathing techniques are an easy and quick way to let go of anger. When you are angry, both your heart and breathing rate experience a surge. As per a study published by the European Heart Journal, a person’s risk of a heart attack increased almost five-fold, and the risk of stroke witnessed a three-fold surge compared to situations when they didn’t experience anger. By learning how to breathe in and out slowly, you can control your anger and lower your heart rate. One technique is to breathe slowly and deeply through your nose and exhale slowly from the mouth. Practice this method for at least 10-15 minutes regularly to see a difference.

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