Anger: Counting heartbeats

It’s ok to be angry.

Experiencing big emotions is part of being human yet it can be hard to find compassion for self and others when they overtake our bodies and/or minds.

Research has proven that yoga and mindfulness help us move from our amygdala (fight-or-flight response) to our prefrontal cortex (regulating emotions and problem-solving) so that we are able to think more clearly and make good choices.

Once we know we are angry, which is certainly not easy to identify, we can try different tools before it spins out of control. 

The thing with anger is that we can only stuff it down for so long until it comes out in some way. From my experience, no one really talks about anger because oftentimes it might not be ‘pretty’ or ‘palatable’. It might be big and loud or feel/look destructive. 

So what do we do with the mad that we feel?

I don’t know about you but I didn’t learn how to manage emotions in school and it feels vital that children and really, all ages understand it’s ok to be angry. Here’s a simple tool to help aid in releasing it. 

Counting heartbeats

Before I explain this tool I’d like to share that letting children express their anger is equally as important as finding a tool to manage it. Sometimes we need a tantrum to release. Other times, we need a tool to cool down.

Next time you or the people you care for feel angry try this:

  • Place your hand gently over your heart and find your heartbeat (the side of the neck is another place to feel it)
  • Bring all your attention to the feeling of your beating heart
  • Count 10 heartbeats as you begin to deepen the breath (Lions breath is great for releasing anger)

*If you are helping someone manage anger, you might help with counting or finding their heart beat.

When we bring our attention inward, it can help slow racing thoughts. Placing our hands on our bodies is another way to soothe the nervous system. This  also helps bring in compassion while the feeling passes.