How to Mindfully Calm Your Anger and Stop Doing Things You Regret

“Neurologists claim that every time you resist acting on your anger, you’re actually rewiring your brain to be calmer and more loving.” ~Unknown

One of the most impactful ways that mindfulness has changed my life is how I’m able to work with my feelings of anger.

Anyone who has met me in recent years would never know how anger used to run my life. I often wish that people who are just now meeting me could realize the transformation I’ve gone through from my past. If people could see how mindfulness has changed me from an angry, irritable person who hated the world to a fun-loving, happy-go-lucky guy, I think everyone would give mindfulness a try.

My mindfulness practice has allowed me to pay attention to what’s happening in my mind and body when anger is rising. I often call this the “volume knob” of anger, and I’ll dive a little more into that shortly.

First, I want to give you a glimpse into my past so you can have a better frame of reference of where I used to be and where I’m at now through a practice of mindfulness.

The Child of an Alcoholic

I grew up as a child of an alcoholic mother, and this gave me a host of issues while growing up, but the biggest one was anger.

I was extremely angry with my mom because I couldn’t understand why she wouldn’t stop drinking for me. I thought that if she truly loved me, she’d be able to quit drinking for me, but she didn’t. My mom ended up getting sober when I was twenty years old, but it was twenty years too late, and I still had two decades of resentments toward her.

Aside from the anger I had toward my mother, I had anger toward the rest of the world.

Looking back on it, it seems completely insane (and it kind of was). It angered me growing up with kids who didn’t have to go through what I was going through in my home life. The kids I grew up with had great parents who made a decent amount of money and could buy them whatever they wanted. But it wasn’t just the material things; they actually had parents and family members who cared about them.

A Life Full of Anger

Being angry all the time was exhausting, but it was the only way I knew how to be. Because of this, I took my anger out on anyone who crossed paths with me.

Although I wasn’t someone who got into many physical altercations growing up, I had words that were venom. I hurt many people throughout my life by saying the most hurtful things I could think of, and then I felt extremely guilty about it. While I thought that every woman I dated was at fault, I could look back at my past and see how toxic I was to anyone who had the misfortune of dating me.

I forgot to mention that I turned into a drug addict and alcoholic myself around eighteen years old, but I managed to get sober on my twenty-seventh birthday in 2012.

Part of the program of recovery that I work says that one of the main reasons we drink and use is because of resentments, which I could definitely relate to. Another part of this program is making amends. Making amends to the people I had hurt in my past was something that helped me forgive myself, but I’m also not a big fan of making amends.

One of the issues with getting sober is that you don’t immediately become this spiritual being. I still had a lot of anger, and I still couldn’t control my temper. I was the epitome of someone who reacted rather than responded. Whenever I would react poorly, I had to humble myself to apologize. I needed to figure out a way to manage my anger before it got to that point, and that’s when I found mindfulness.

Mindfulness is My Anger Management Tool

I didn’t find mindfulness until I was three years sober. My anger wasn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, but it was still there. I knew that I still had a lot of self-improvement to do, so I gave mindfulness meditation a try.

From the first time I tried meditating, I immediately understood how transformative it could be in my life, but I didn’t realize how much it would help me with my anger issues.

One of the reasons I love the practice of mindfulness is because there are so many informal practices. As I started introducing different practices like mindful walking, mindful listening, and mindful communicating, I was becoming more mindful in my everyday life.

What I began to realize was that I was only acknowledging my anger when I was ready to explode, and it was often something that had been building up for a while. Since I wasn’t recognizing the early triggers of my anger, I wasn’t able to deal with it before reacting in a way that I would regret.

Some of the patterns of my anger triggers I started to recognize include:

  • Disrespected
  • Lied to
  • Being talked down to
  • Not being treated fairly
  • Not given credit
  • Not appreciated

When I speak of the “volume knob” of anger, I mean that mindfulness has helped me begin catching my anger at a volume level of one or two rather than at a nine or ten. By the time my anger gets to the highest volume, it is controlling me rather than me controlling it.

Being more mindful throughout my day has given me the opportunity to not only spot my anger in its earlier stages, but it’s also allowed me to treat it with compassion and curiosity.

Now, when I feel that initial anger within my body or mind, I get really curious. I take a calm breath and simply think, “That’s interesting. Why am I feeling this way towards this person or situation?”

Mindfulness helps declutter the mind and help me get to the root of what’s really happening within my own mind. Often times, I find that my anger is based on circumstances that are completely outside of my control, or they’re based on other circumstances that have nothing to do with the other person or people involved.

Perhaps the most profound way that mindfulness has affected me is that it’s had me realize that my anger is often based on belief systems that are rather closed-minded.

A Mindful Communication Practice

A great practice you can begin using is mindful communication. This involves being fully present during a conversation, which involves listening while also being mindful of what your own mind and body are doing.

I suggest you begin practicing this with someone who you may not get along with too well, but not someone who makes you overly emotional. This could be a coworker you’re not too fond of, a family member, or a friend in your inner circle. If this is too much for you, you can do it while browsing social media posts or watching the news.

While communicating with this person, be mindful of the emotions rising in your body and the sensations you’re getting. Begin to notice what they’ve said that’s triggered this initial emotion and be aware of where you’re feeling sensations in your body.

Rather than turning to judgement, just be curious. Be fascinated by why your body and mind are reacting the way they are in that moment. When you treat these thoughts and sensations with equanimity, you’re less likely to react poorly in the situation.

When I speak of being fascinated, I mean to treat your experience with the curiosity of a child. This was one of my first lessons in mindfulness. When you’re being curious, you’re not judging. Inspect your experience like a child closely examining a leaf for the first time. This helps takes the power away from the strong emotion you’re feeling in that moment.

This whole practice is extremely important because it gives us a chance to pause. When we pause, we’re able to respond rather than react. Reactions are often what the primitive part of our brain wants to do, and we don’t put much thought into it. This typically leads to regret and suffering. By being able to pause, and then respond, we make much wiser decisions.

This is going to take practice until you have your temper under control, but over time, you’ll begin to reflect on situations that would have set you off. I’m personally amazed at how well my anger is managed today, and it’s something I continue to work on. Now that I know how to respond rather than react, I don’t find myself regretting the decisions I made out of a knee-jerk reaction to anger.

As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I wish more people could truly understand how much mindfulness has changed me. Whenever I see senseless acts of violence such as domestic abuse, physical altercations between strangers, or even murder that happens due to somebody’s inability to manage their anger, I just think of how much different this world would be if more people learned this practice.

My hope is to be an example to others when it comes to managing anger through mindfulness. If they can see how I respond to life’s difficulties on a daily basis, maybe they’ll decide to give this mindfulness thing a try.

About Chris Boutté

Chris Boutté struggled with depression, anxiety and addiction for most of his life. After getting sober in 2012, he was on a mission to improve his mental health as well as his sobriety when he found mindfulness. Subscribe to Chris on YouTube at The Rewired Soul and follow him on Instagram @TheRewiredSoul. If you’d like to learn more about Chris’ story, check out his book HOPE: How I Overcame Depression, Anxiety and Addiction.

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  • sandy

    Loved this post! thanks Chris for sharing your wisdom

  • mstzbootman

    Thank you!

  • Danielle

    How do I consistently get emails with blogs directly related to my current mood/rumination/etc? Are you stalking me or should we be best friends?

  • Pieter

    The concept of mindfulness can be so confusing and over whelming as a theory, really like the idea of mindful communication as a practice and a place to start. Great Post

  • mstzbootman

    hahaha I’m glad my blog was able to help! Feel free to check out my YouTube channel linked in my bio. I have more on this topic and a bunch of others 🙂

  • mstzbootman

    Thank you! I need to do more on mindful communication. It’s something that’s more difficult because it’s happening in the moment, but I think regular practice of mindfulness in general makes mindful communication a bit easier to do 🙂

  • KathyFitz

    Thank you Chris! Could you possibly suggest some mindfulness meditations?

  • mstzbootman

    Hi Kathy! You’re very welcome. Over on my YouTube channel, I have a whole playlist of mindfulness tips I’ve put together if you want to check them out. I have a couple guided meditations and definitely need to do more.

    I have a video called “freedom from emotional bondage”, which is super helpful for me when I’m feeling upset. It’s a more formal practice that takes time to learn how to do when in a conversation, but it’s a great starting point 🙂

  • Fartrell Cluggins

    Absolutely loved this!! Thanks!

  • mstzbootman

    You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  • ruth –

    Hi, I’ve read this article after getting mad at work today, yet again. I’ve been mad all my life and the vicious cycle of getting into trouble at work/life is endless.
    I grow up in a home with a violent, alcoholic father. Being constantly in fear and angry hasn’t prepared me well enough to cope in life. As one boss told me, I don’t play well with others, I’m over sensitive, a loner and take everything personally.
    I have tried hypnosis, meditation and breathing but it doesn’t stop my quick temper or my mouth.
    I’ve been diagnosed with major depression and I’m not cope very well.
    Sorry but how mindfulness is going to make a difference to what I have tried already?
    Thank you

  • Mike

    thank you mate for sharing … i’ve been practicing mindfulness for almost a year now, it has brought so much peace to my life. It is something that takes constant work I feel. Can totally relate with your story. I walked around for 6 years after my Mum died full of anger. It is such a toxic emotion. Well done to you … keep going 🙂

  • Stephany

    This is truly amazing! I love it and I love the little assignment you gave. I am going to give it a try 🙂

  • Debido

    Thank you so much for this post. Love how mindfulness has changed you!

  • Debido

    Hi Ruth, i just wanted to chime in here. When depression is serious, sometimes medication is necessary to get on track with this stuff. Our son was in therapy for years for anger, OCD and anxiety, but it wasn’t until we put him on medication that he could slow his thought process down and start using the techniques he was learning in therapy. Since then we have tapered the medication and he is doing fine using mindfulness techniques similar to those described in this post. Namaste ?

  • ruth –

    Thank you

  • FashionJitsu

    Thank you for this awesome post. Beyond words.

  • dyslexictrio

    Thank you for being the first to make me feel-at the age of 52-like I am not alone in the world. I subscribed to your youtube site and will check it out when I can. Myself, I have suffered all my life, and still do, with being alone and judged because nobody gets me and nobody cares to try. When I try to speak my truth, I either get accused of ‘playing the victim’ or being narcissistic. [For those who care to properly research the term, they will find that being narcissistic is actually a good thing.] I have heard of mindfulness many times for a number of years. It never really resonated with me before but your post causes me to give it a closer look. Thanks, again.

  • dyslexictrio

    Hi, Ruth. I share your story (what I can see here, at least). I finally saw some light when I did a screening of my DNA. That is when I learned I have the MAO-A gene Single Nucleotide Polymorphism-aka, SNP. In other words, I have the MAO-A gene mutation. It is also known as the ‘Warrior Gene’. This makes me, along with the epigenetics of my poor upbringing, predisposed to such quick, angry outbursts. Having that insight, finally, I was able to get a supplemental treatment schedule from my Naturopath. One of the main constituents to my wellness-if not THE MOST DEFINITIVE constituent-has been Glutathione, especially as a regular injection. Of course, I am not a doctor and do not know your whole story. Still, I hope this may offer some hope, a lead to follow, something to pursue. I wish you the best in your search.

  • ruth –

    If you don’t mind me asking, are you female or male? The reason I ask is because I have done some research and the warrior gene is hard to pick up in females because females have two x genes.

  • dyslexictrio

    Oh, I admit, I did not think of that. Yes, I am a man and therefore, had no inclination to consider that aspect. I did watch a documentary on it-I don’t remember if it was the National Geographic one-where the interviewer, a woman, turned out to also have the mutation so, it does happen with women. Even if it does not show this mutation for you, it has become quite popular and available now to access one’s DNA genetic profile. Perhaps, you’d like to consider that? It can still offer you useful information. I hope this helps.

  • Dee Kelly

    Great post. Plan on researching it more and using it daily.

  • Ronald Villacis

    Thank you for this wonderful post. I found myself at unease because I relate so much. After years of practice, I revisit this test and that is okay and I am still a loving human being. This was a wonderful reminder to “be mindful.”

  • Pepsi18

    Hi Chris,
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Unfortunately that is me…until I met my ex boyfriend four years ago I’d never been exposed to alcoholism. The relationship started so well, I was blissfully happy and thought I’d found my soulmate. It wasn’t until he moved in with me that I became aware of problems. At first I thought I was overreacting or imagining things as this was alien to me, however, as the months went on things spiralled downhill rapidly!
    Over a year ago he got the help he needed and is now in sobriety. He desperately wants us to start over but although I still love him, I’ve got a lot of anger and resentment towards him.
    Hopefully using your tips and a lot of self awareness and care, I’ll be able to let go of the past and move forward.
    Thanks again