How we can maintain our inner peace (while the world goes crazy)
Anger and unhappiness are infectious. Learn how to maintain your inner peace in an increasingly crazy world.
by: E.B. Johnson
It seems like everywhere you look today, you’re staring into the face of anger. People are angry about traffic. People are angry about the weather. People are angry about politics and coffee cups and Youtube videos and every other thing in-between.
You can see the anger and unhappiness in people’s faces. You can read it in their Facebook posts and hear it in their voices.
Everyday, we’re confronted with people that make us angry; people that make us want to argue. You might set out with the best intentions for a day, but you spend three minutes on public transport and — boom — you’re in an expletive-fueled Twitter rant and you’re ready to burn the world to the ground…before 9 o’clock!
It can be hard to maintain our cool when we’re living in a world that feels like it’s packed full of annoyances and bitter people, but it’s crucial to maintain this state for our physical and mental well-being.
Why Anger is a Problem
But wait, you might be saying. It’s good to be angry about some things. It’s good to yell about some things!
Sure, anger can help us get sh*t done in extreme moments, but it’s an incredibly unhelpful tool in 99% of other circumstances we encounter in modern life.
It’s ineffective and unhealthy.
Anger is an ineffective way to live and makes us more ineffective as people. Evolved as an intimidation strategy, anger alienates us from our social groups and ruins crucial relationships that we depend on for our mental, social and emotional well-being.
Research suggests that having warm, non-angry relationships are the key to our long-term happiness (they don’t have to be “romantic”). Conversely, research also shows that nearly 80% of all anger occurs with the family and friends that surround us — the last people we want to bully and intimidate.
Our anger is ineffective because it alienates the people that matter most, and destroys these close relationships we depend on. While our anger with these people might be justified, it isn’t healthy. Even if it gets us the results we seek, it destroys the bonds of warmth and affection our key relationships depend on.
It’s based on a distorted sense of reality.
Anger almost always comes from a sense of things not being as they should be. This is one of the reasons it is so easy to become angered by the angry people around us who throw off our vibes.
Situations make us angry because they don’t go as we want them to. People make us angry because they don’t behave the way we think they ought to.
When you encounter someone angry, it makes you angry; often, because you didn’t expect them to act in such a venomous way, or you didn’t expect to be confronted with such abrasive negativity.
Our anger ultimately comes from a distorted sense of reality; this idea that things should be the way we want them to be, not as they really are.
We appraise the events around us and then frame them around the ideas we have of what the world should be. When those expectations aren’t met, in any way, we find ourselves irritated and spiraling into a spiral of negative emotions that start at anger and often end at depression or feelings of self-loathing.
Instead of focusing on how we think the world should be, we have to learn to look at the way the world really is in order to maintain our inner peace.
It destroys your empathy and your logic.
Anger destroys the two things that our so crucial to our humanity: our empathy and our logic.
Thinking of all those should’s will make you then realize all the could’s. When we get angered and let down by other people, we tend to become judgmental rather than rational. We start to condemn the behavior of those around us, rather than explaining it, and we become judge, lawyer and jury as our anger becomes a fertilizer patch for aggrandized self-righteousness.
Our anger makes us feel justified in embracing the more cold and calloused aspects of our natures, and turns off our empathy taps quicker than almost any other experience. But this goes again to destroy our social relationships.
When our social relationships are eroded we become isolated and unhappy. It’s that isolation and unhappiness that can lead to more serious feelings of hopelessness or worse, and it’s this kind of unhappiness that leaves us vulnerable to negative behaviors and attitudes.
How We Can Maintain our Inner Peace ( As the World Goes Crazy)
1. Learn how to cope with healthy alternatives.
People are going to make us angry, that’s just a cold hard fact of life. And — chances are — people are going to make us angrier more and more in the coming days and years.
Learn how to develop healthy distractions that help you cope with your anger in positive ways, rather than resorting to unhealthy alternatives with short-term pay offs.
When we encounter stressful situations or negative people, it can make us feel bad. Being the impatient humans that we are, we look for the things that can make us feel better quickly.
Instead of smoking or drinking or eating a pound of junk food to make the ickiness go away, try making a cup of tea, walking in a green space or journaling for a few minutes instead. Healthy coping habits are habits that make us happy without having negative impacts on our health and our lives.
Find a positive practice that works for you and apply it whenever you’re starting to feel the rage bubble up.
2. Learn how to breathe and let it be.
We can’t control the people around us, but can control how we respond to their behavior from the very first moment we encounter them to the very last.
When you feel like the top is about to pop, try taking a step back and breathing rather than clapping back with everything you have (which will only perpetuate the anger and other negative emotions in the long run.)
Deep breathing can actually help to relax the fight-or-flight responses our anger elicits, and it allows us to calm any anxiety that might be building up beside your budding anger.
Learn to let go and let it be.
People drive us crazy when they don’t act the way we expect them to, but they will never act the way we expect them to. It’s good to feel special. It’s even good to feel in control, but it’s key to realize that you cannot (in any way, shape or form) ever truly control another human being.
Trying to change the unchangeable will leave you feeling empty and angrier than you were before you started. Instead of focusing on control, focus on letting go and learn to breathe and lead by example.
You can develop this state of being by cultivating a few approaches:
- When angered, immediately take a few minutes to yourself to quiet your mind and breathe deeply before giving any response.
- Remind yourself that (like you) people are the master’s of their own lives and can react or act in any way they choose.
- Remind yourself that you cannot control other people. That’s not your right.
- Focus on the good rather than the bad traits of the people that anger you. Look as deep as you have to.
- Don’t take the actions of other people personally.
- Remember that you have no idea what might be going on behind the scenes of the people that act out the most.
- Let go of any ideals or expectations you have that cause unnecessary arguments and bouts of unpleasantness.
Learning how to cultivate a deep-breathing, zen state can be hard, but it’s worthwhile. When you can learn to separate yourself and give your mind time to consider, you’ll find that not only will your life improve but your relationships will too.
Put a little more peace into the world by creating a foundation of peace in your life, no matter what’s going on around you.
3. Create the right morning ritual.
The way we start our day can really set the tone for how we approach the people and situations that we encounter throughout it.
Instead of rushing into the stress of the day by starting with emails and text messages, spend some time putting yourself into a peaceful and tranquil state with a morning routine that cultivates the best in you.
Start your morning by drinking at least 500 mL of water, and move on to an exercise practice or quiet-practice that allows you to get yourself into a peaceful and steady state for the challenges ahead.
Keep your devices powered down until you are relaxed and balanced and don’t be afraid to prep the things you need for your morning the night before.
If you still aren’t sure about how to cultivate a morning routine, learn more about piecing one together that works best for your state of zen.
4. Learn to love the silence.
Anger makes us anxious and when we’re anxious we become completely uneasy with silence in any form.
Learn how to love silence. As you’re taking your deep breaths, focus on the stillness and the quiet. Lets yourself dissolve into the peacefulness of it and embrace how nice it is to just be still. If this kind of monk-like zen just isn’t how you live your life, learn to use your silence as a weapon when you’re feeling the rage seep in.
Anger isn’t just ineffective in our relationships, it’s ineffective as a reaction in almost every other respect too. When people are angry they are irrational, and they expect us to be irrational too.
Disarm your angry naysayers with your silence. You become more powerful and influential in your arguments when you learn to hold your tongue at the right moments. Angry people never expect silence and it leaves them on the back foot, leaving you looking good.
Weaponize your silence and in it find your inner peace.
5. Stop taking everything personally.
With social media being such a major part of our lives, it’s easy to come to the assumption that everything is about us. When we find ourselves in this self-obsessed headspace, our world view becomes limited.
When we reign king of our own fantasy worlds, everything bad that happens in them is a personal affront. Everything on this planet is about me so this angry person must be personally attacking me, right?
The world is not all about you and it never will be. While we’re important to some, we’re not important to everyone and the sooner you realize that the sooner you’ll be able to let go of the hangups of other people.
When the people around us are angry it often has nothing to do with us. Even though we end up on the receiving end of a maelstrom from our friends or our spouses or our best friends, it doesn’t mean it actually has anything to do with us. And it certainly doesn’t mean it requires an angry reaction from you.
Detach yourself from other people’s beliefs and behaviors. People behave the way they feel on the inside and that’s a place you have no control over.
Stop taking responsibility for the way other people cope with the stress in their lives and let your disappointment with them go. If someone is being obnoxious or rude to you remember: it’s a reflection of whatever is going on with them on the inside — not you.
6. Be the grace and the good you wish to see in the world.
We are all just people trying to make it in this world, and the sooner we realize we’re more alike than different, the happier we will all be.
Keep the positive things in mind and focus on putting good and grace out into the world around you. Pay it forward and let kindness be the pay that empower you to put more kindness and good out into the universe, rather than more anger and bitterness.
Everyone gets upset. Everyone loses their temper. Remind yourself that this is universal and not restricted to any one person or place or region.
Instead of passing judgement, try extending a hand of grace. That person that upset you could just be grouchy from a bad night of sleep, or maybe there’s something terrible going on in their lives.
Take the high road. Do three things each day that put good into the environment around you and take some time to count the things you’re grateful for.
Kindness makes a difference and often it is the most transformative part of a person’s day. Let your positivity empower those around you and create more positive world by force of will alone.
7. Take care of your health.
Our physical state actually goes a long way to bolster our resilience to things like stress and anger in our environment.
When we enter an angry or tense situation in a weakened mental or emotional state, we can quickly get thrown off-kilter. By looking after ourselves better, we actually make it easier to maintain our inner peace and reject those moments of provocation or annoyance.
Look out for the factors that trigger you the most and avoid them, especially when you expect to encounter a potentially stressful situation.
Alcohol is the most-common agitator when it comes to putting us in a compromised state that leaves us susceptible to angry feelings; but fatigue and stress can also leave us more apt to react with rage when circumstances disappoint us.
By taking care of ourselves and ensuring we get the sleep, food, water and exercise we need to feel good is a good way to make sure you can maintain your inner zen when things get nasty.
Improve your diet and your awareness of your body. Give it the things it needs to fuel the positive behaviors and beliefs in your life that make it possible to stand strong in your peace.
8. Practice compassion in everything that you do.
In the current climate, many of us feel scared, worried, fearful and hurt by the state of affairs and the level of anger we perceive in the institutions around us. It’s hard to lose our compassion in this kind of chaos, but it’s crucial that we don’t.
Only by practicing compassion in everything that we do can we hope for any type of a better future.
Put yourself in other people’s shoes and try to understand where they’re coming from — no matter how they react to you. Give them the space to regroup by trying to understand what it is that has made them upset, and remember that you never really know what is going on in someone’s life because we only every show a tiny, minuscule part of ourselves to the world (thanks, social media.)
Set your intentions to compassion every day and try to be supportive no matter what situation you find yourself in. When we leave our expectations and judgements at the door, we can often get to the root of the anger around us and only then can we solve it, changing it into something positive and growth-oriented.
Putting it all together…
Life isn’t a world of serene streams and isolated hills where we can take the time to find our peace and center. For many, life is full of hostility and aggression and it can be hard to maintain a state of calm in such a treacherous stomping ground.
We can cultivate our inner peace by making a concentrated effort to change the way we see and appraise the world around us.
Instead of reacting, take a few minutes to quieten your mind, breathe and remember that we all have a struggle we aren’t sharing. Put good into the world by doing good and make a concentrated effort to exert grace when others would exert force. Take care of your health and love the ones around you, clinging tight to the relationships that bring you so much happiness and joy.
When you learn to approach the world with a sense of calm, you’ll learn to live your life with a new sense of pride. This world is an emotional one, but the last thing it needs is more anger. Learn to love yourself and the quiet of peace by making it an intentional practice in your life.