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No one is immune to anger, and the ability to remain calm is a spectrum that varies from person to person. Reducing the intensity, duration and frequency of anger can help you move toward a calmer life. Here are some effective tools to reduce anger and live a happier and more tranquil life.

Close your mouth and flare your nostrils.


Flaring the nostrils is an involuntary position the human face assumes when angered. This facial reaction is cross-cultural and typically consists of the nostrils widening, lips pursing, and chin jutting outward. It is a face made even by children who are congenitally blind, leading scientists to believe it is innate rather than learned. The nostril flare goes as far back as the Torah itself.

The Torah speaks of Hashem “flaring His nostrils” in anger (as in Bamidbar 22:22 – “Vayichar af Hashem”). Certainly, G-d does not have a physical body, nor does He experience human anger, but this serves as a metaphor to help the reader understand the passage more deeply.

It is possible that in these “nostril flare” statements, Hashem is sharing with us a technique for controlling our anger.

Flaring the nostrils allows more oxygen to flow to the brain, which is what our body needs to calm the nervous system and prevent the “fight or flight” reflex from kicking in. The nostrils will involuntarily flare to allow oxygen to enter more quickly into the bloodstream.

We all know about the technique of deep breathing when angry. G-d hints at this frequently in the Torah when His anger is mentioned, describing something we can do to abate our own.

The next time you experience anger, instead of responding verbally in a way you might later regret, try closing your mouth and letting your natural response system do its job. This will help decrease the intensity of the anger you experience.

Ten deep breaths can truly calm the mind and allow one to engage in a constructive conversation. Taking it a step further, anything that aids in relaxation will also help assuage anger. Once we are calm, we can address a problem more rationally.

Walk out the door.

Seriously. Simply walking out of the room and through a door actually helps decrease anger.

Have you ever left a room to get something from another room only to discover that upon entering the second room you forgot what you needed? This is called “The Doorway Effect,” and yes, it’s a real thing.

Studies have shown that walking through a doorway causes forgetfulness, particularly if we are distracted and thinking about something else as we do so. The reason is that doorways represent a boundary between two contexts. For example, once when I was working on an article, I needed to get a reference book from another room. I walked into the new room and completely forgot why I was there. The reason I forgot about the book once I entered the other room is that the reality of the book was connected to the room I was initially in. Once I walked into the study, that connection became disrupted, especially because I was thinking about what I wanted to write about.

You can use the doorway effect to your advantage when it comes to anger. By walking into another room – specifically through a doorway – you may forget what you’re angry about and create a new reaction in a fresh space. At the very least, walking away can decrease the intensity of your anger and give you some personal space to calm down.

Release some endorphins!

Suppressing anger will eventually intensify it and cause us to lash out toward something else that might be unrelated. My children play a game in the pool where they try to keep beach balls under the surface of the water. Keeping one or two balls under the surface is easy – they just sit on them. Add another ball or two and suddenly they are using all their might to keep them under the surface. Soon balls start erupting in every direction. Trying to suppress and stuff down our anger below the surface doesn’t work either in the long term. Dr. Edith Eger, a famous Holocaust survivor and therapist, explains that there is no moving on with rage. We have to release the rage to move forward.

One way to release anger is to isolate yourself from others and allow the rage to express itself. Give yourself a timeout by removing yourself from others and spending some time alone. You can release the rage by punching a mattress or screaming into a pillow. You can rip paper, lie down with a weighted blanket, hug yourself, or even squeeze or stroke your arms.

Another way to release rage is with body movement. When we exercise and bring the heart rate up consistently for 30-45 minutes, endorphins are released and serve to act like an anti-depressant. We can use endorphins to help override the anger stimulus.

Wash your face.

When you’re angry, your sympathetic nervous system (aka fight or flight mode) kicks in. This causes the adrenal gland to pump adrenaline into your bloodstream, your heart rate to rise, and your body temperature to spike.

Cooling the body can activate the parasympathetic system, which helps tame our emotions. One study on anger discovered the positive effects of using cold water to calm the body down. Submerging your head in cold water can activate the parasympathetic system, calming you down. While the body adjusts to the cold temperature, the vagus nerve becomes activated, which causes a decline in sympathetic activity. Simultaneously, the parasympathetic activity increases.

This technique has roots in the Torah. When Joseph was reunited with his brothers years after they sold him into slavery, he utilized great effort to control his emotions. The Torah states, “He washed his face.”

Shmuel ben Chofni, a 10th-century Torah giant, says that Joseph was washing his face to calm down and shift his perspective. Washing his face was an external manifestation of removing internal pain. This moment alone to cool down allowed him to continue the interaction with his siblings.

When you are overwhelmed with anger, the cold water technique can lower your blood pressure, body temperature, and heart rate and help you better cope with upsetting circumstances (see

Other actions that can produce similar results are taking a cool shower, having a cold drink, or wiping your forehead or neck with a damp cloth. Even getting fresh air can be effective.

Practice mindfulness.

Our brain looks much like the pathways of airplane flights. Author Sonja Lyubomirsky explains this concept well in The Myth of Happiness:

“Consider an airline’s route map, like the kind you find at the back of a glossy flight magazine. Because scheduled flights depart and arrive from hundreds of cities, each major and minor city is connected to other cities. Some cities are hubs, so many flights connect to them, and some cities have only a few connections, making it necessary to change planes several times to get to your point destination.”

Our brains work similarly. We all have “semantic networks.” Much like flights that connect in several different locations, our brain is interlinked through our thoughts and memories. Some thoughts and memories have a stronger link, like the way Atlanta and Miami have numerous flights connecting the two daily. Other thoughts are more weakly linked and less often visited.

This explains why when something neutral happens, our brain immediately takes us to certain negative hubs. Breaking down the pathways and diverting those reactions is the ultimate act of self-control, and can help mitigate anger.

Angry thoughts are usually about something that happened in the past. Even if the “past” was only minutes before. Bring yourself back to the present moment by naming as many objects or colors you can see in the room, or by doing a mental body scan and taking note of your physical state.

Stroking your arms, hugging yourself or doing arm taps can also bring you back to the present moment, decreasing negative emotions.

Keep an anger journal.

Writing can be therapeutic, and reviewing your triggers often helps immensely. Write a log of your day and note what caused you anger. Just recognizing your patterns can help you change them.

Write down your frustrations, and then wait 24 hours before taking action. You will be surprised at how the intensity of your anger dissipates on its own.

Write a letter to the person who angered you, but wait 24 hours to send it, and then read it over carefully. Some of what you wrote may not feel as pressing or relevant after stepping away and returning to it. Most of what you wrote can then be edited or erased to truly reflect your feelings, whether you decide to send the letter or not. Just the act of writing it out serves like a personal therapist, helping you calm yourself and let go.

Speak softly.

Speaking softly is one of the most famous tools in Jewish literature used for conquering anger by far the most simple (see Igeret HaRambam and Sefer HaChinuch). The reason speaking softly is so effective is that humans are wired so that our mind and body are congruent. If you speak softly, you are sending a message to the brain that says, I am not angry. Then it becomes much harder to continue in the anger.

Saying the same words softly will reduce anger because we are built to be consistent in body and mind. Incongruence between the mind and body doesn’t last long because we cannot maintain such a dichotomy within ourselves. Therefore, if I consistently speak softly when angered, eventually my thoughts will change as well.

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Sarah Pachter is a motivational speaker, columnist, kallah teacher, dating coach, and the author of "Is it Ever Enough?" (published by Feldheim) and "Small Choices Big Changes" (published by Targum Press). She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and five children.