The typical modern lifestyle is fast-paced, sometimes hectic, and often stressful. Even the most put-together person experiences moments of madness. When the rails come unglued, it’s easy to lose our cool too.
When it comes to anger, our brains are wired to react before we consider the consequences. And managing anger is a learned skill, not an instinct we’re born with. Fortunately, we can all learn how to deal with anger appropriately.
Along with some easy exercises and healthy habits, nootropics for anger can help take the sting out of that buzz before things get blown out of proportion.
What is Anger?
For thousands of years, philosophers have been debating the merits and pitfalls of anger. Plutarch wrote his essay De Cohibenda Ira (On Controlling Anger) around 100 CE, but in contrast to early philosophers modern psychologists have highlighted the harmful effects of suppressing anger.
Mental health professionals view anger as a core emotion that virtually all humans experience. In the best context, anger is a supportive coping mechanism that indicates that something is wrong and requires correction.<1>
But uncontrolled anger can negatively impact personal or social well-being and adversely affect those around them and even cause lasting psychological and emotional trauma.
Acting on anger with misplaced aggression is thought to be at least partly due to cognitive errors in judgement and perception.
People express anger in a myriad of different ways. Some of the most common anger expressions include aggressive, passive, and assertive displays.
Aggressive anger is obvious and often frightening to recipients and onlookers.
Aggressive anger may trigger:
- Destructiveness – breaking or destroying things; abusing animals, children and other people; self-harm
- Threats – threatening property or people; wearing clothing or symbols associated with violence; road rage; slamming doors
- Unpredictability – explosive tantrums; haphazard attacks; unjust punishment; illogical arguments
- Risk-taking – driving too fast; substance abuse; firearms play; unprotected sex with strangers; excessive gambling
- Bullying – pushing or shoving; insulting; using power to coerce; blackmail
Bullying has become an epidemic in America today. What often begins as a search for boundaries in childhood can become a habitual response to challenges and unmet needs and wants. Anger management techniques can help reduce habitual bullying tendencies in both young and older people.
Passive anger exhibits less obvious indicators, but the results can be equally harmful.
These often overlooked behaviors include:
- Self-blaming – apologizing frequently; being overly critical of oneself or others; inviting criticism
- Obsessive behavior – excessive cleanliness; constantly checking things; extreme dieting or binge eating
- Psychological manipulation – provoking people to aggression and then belittling them; emotional blackmail; crocodile tears; withholding money or other resources
- Secretive behavior – gossiping; silent treatment; muttering; avoiding eye contact; filing anonymous complaints; theft
- Dispassion – fake smiles; feigning lack of interest; substance abuse; oversleeping; using activities for distraction
Assertive anger expressions allow us to confront situations in a calmer, often more productive manner.
Assertive anger expressions include:
- Blame – scolding undesirable actions or behaviors in a disciplinary manner
- Punishment – dispensing appropriate, temporary punishment like limiting activities; grounding; suspension of privileges (not including survival-based needs)
- Sternness – reprimanding bad behavior; verbally expressing disapproval or disappointment.
Anger communication manifests through many more styles than either passive, aggressive, or assertive.
- Ephrem Fernandez has developed a functional model of anger response that categorizes six dimensions of anger expression that create a profile of an individual’s style of anger expression.
Some familiar styles include explosive anger, repressive anger, passive aggressive behavior, and constructive anger expression.<2>
In the moment, anger can easily become the dominant response physiologically, cognitively, and behaviorally. Some common biomechanisms of anger are detailed below.
The Neurology of Anger
At its core, anger is a strong, uncomfortable and sometimes hostile emotional response to a perceived provocation, harm, or threat.
Neuroscience shows that multiple structures in the brain influence emotions.
With anger provoked in the present, the evaluative processing of threats begins in the amygdala then travels along neural pathways through the sensory organs towards the limbic forebrain.
The amygdala is responsible for identifying threats and alerting the brain and body when threats are presented so we can protect ourselves. The amygdala is so efficient at threat identification it triggers a reaction before the more rational cortex can even process the information.
Wherever anger begins in the brain, it inevitably activates the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA), triggering the fight or flight response.<3>
The HPA and the fear response exhibit many common physical symptoms including:
- elevated heart rate
- higher blood pressure
- heightened adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine levels
- muscle tension
- rapid, irregular breathing
- increased perspiration
During fear response activation, production of mood-enhancing hormones dopamine and serotonin is dampened while the brain produces more cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine.
GABA receptor activity decreases, making room for the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems' threat response mechanisms that ready physical fight or flight actions by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and muscle tension.
All this activity is designed to fuel defensive actions in threatening situations. In the past, this super-sensitive fear response system probably helped ensure our survival.
Modern life is much less dangerous than it was for our early ancestors, but the amygdala's threat-assessment system is still wired for speed over accuracy. That means most anger responses today are the product of false alarms rather than valid warnings.
You can learn to control how you react to feelings of anger and turn uninhibited automatic reactions into levelheaded learned responses. With practice and consistency, you can rewire your brain and change how you respond to perceived threats.
Exercise elevates happy hormones called endorphins that improve mood while you’re improving your body. Plus, it’s a highly effective way to release excess tension and stress.
- Strength and endurance training like kickboxing or lifting weights helps to build confidence by testing and pushing physical and mental limits. Higher confidence and endurance can help lower the brain’s sensitivity to perceived threats.
- Cardio exercise like jogging or cycling improves respiration and pumps more oxygen to the brain, improving your ability to think rationally under stress.
Whatever workout you choose, exercise effectively relieves stress and anxiety and gives your brain something other than your anger to focus on.
Martial arts trains all aspects of your mind-body-heart connection by:
- Teaching physical defense skills that boost mental confidence in your ability to handle physical threats.
- Replacing reaction with response and teaches how to use energy to diffuse confrontations
- Emphasizing mental control and breathwork, promoting a stance of calm strength and awareness
There are many martial arts styles to choose from. Some are more physically challenging while others focus on emotional and mental strength, but all of them can help improve how you handle anger.
People around the world have used meditation to re-align the mind and body for thousands of years. Clearing the mind for even a few minutes a day can induce relaxation and serenity.
Meditation can be practiced alone or in a group. If you’re uncertain about how to meditate, you can probably find a group setting near you that can help you ease into the practice.
Whatever setting you prefer, meditation is a powerful stress and anxiety reliever that can rewire your brain and provide lasting benefits to mind and body.
Researchers have found sound waves can soothe the nervous system, reduce anxiety, and boost mood.
- Sound baths induce a meditative state. Sound practitioners play a sequence of various instruments to create a soothing atmosphere for mental and physical relaxation and gentle emotional support.
You are probably familiar with the advice, “Take a deep breath.” But how can something so simple be so effective?
Deep breathing can calm anger by improving oxygen flow to the brain, lowering heart rate and blood pressure, and soothing the nervous system. These biomechanisms work together to reduce stress hormone levels and stimulate GABA production, helping you feel more in control.
Lack of sleep can make people more short-tempered and volatile. And chronic poor sleep can affect perception, turning a spinning top into a tornado at the slightest aggravation. A well-rested brain can cope with everyday stressors far better than an exhausted one. Make sure to get an adequate amount of restful sleep each night to avoid anger extremes.
Mind Lab Pro® Nootropics for Anger
Nootropics support mood and cognitive function. Some nootropics for anger, specifically, address mood problems while boosting cognitive functions that help keep irrational outbursts at bay.
Here are some of the best nootropics for anger:
Rhodiola rosea is a powerful adaptogen herb that has been used for thousands of years for its mentally calming effect. It can also increase physical and mental endurance, helping you meet challenges and deal with stressful situations better.
Rhodiola reduces anxiety by soothing the nervous system and mitigates the effects of cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone. One trial evaluated the impact of rhodiola on anxiety, stress, and other mood symptoms.
- Eighty mildly anxious participants were randomly placed in two separate groups and given either rhodiola rosea or nothing. Subjects were evaluated for mood changes over a period of 14 days. The rhodiola group demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety, stress, anger, confusion and depression and significant improvements in overall mood.<4>
“In all of the studies to date, the herb
has significantly lessened mental stress and anxiety while enhancing mood and intellectual performance.” Dr. Richard P. Brown, Rhodiola Revolution
Stress triggers the adrenal glands to release the hormone cortisol. Cortisol agitates the nervous system, beginning a chain reaction that could end in an angry outburst. Rhodiola helps keep cortisol levels in check and supports the parasympathetic nervous system, improving the ability to handle stress.
Plus, rhodiola acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – the brain region that gets activated during the early stages of anger.
“It’s a potent antidote to today’s hectic, high-anxiety world,” says Dr. Brown.
Another stress-busting adaptogen, bacopa contributes to a bright, happy mood and can reduce stress by altering brain biochemistry.
Bacopa contains bacosides that regulate serotonin and dopamine, two of the foremost mood-related brain chemicals. Bacosides also stimulate GABA receptor activity and kinase activity in the hippocampus, improving nerve communication, calming over-active chemical messages in the brain and improving cognition.
Bacopa can reduce feelings of stress and may help avert and reduce panic attacks, which can trigger self-defense mechanisms like anger.
- A study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that participants taking bacopa monnieri exhibited more mood stability and their heart rates under stress decreased over time.<5>
Under stress, breathing becomes more rapid and shallow. Bacopa can help combat anger by promoting relaxation of the bronchioles and blood-vessel muscles surrounding respiratory passages.
L-Theanine has contributed to peace of mind and mood stability for thousands of years across many cultures through the shared ritual of drinking tea – especially green tea.
A natural anxiolytic, L-Theanine can:
- Lower heart rate and blood pressure – two physical mechanisms closely connected to feelings of anger<6>
- Improve the effects of stress-busting GABA – helping maintain a calmer, more relaxed state of mind and reducing the power of anger mechanisms in the brain and nervous system
- Increase mood-boosting dopamine and serotonin levels for feelings of pleasure and happiness
- Promote calming alpha brain waves that soothe the nervous system and inhibit heightened response to lower emotions
- Reduce levels of excitatory brain chemicals linked to stress and anxiety<7>
- Improve liver metabolism (poor liver function is associated with anger)
It's hard to be happy and angry at the same time. L-Theanine's uplifting, multifaceted approach makes it one of the best nootropics for anger, helping you stay calm and alert through many complementary biomechanisms.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for anger protect mood-boosting brain chemicals and support stress-busting biofunctions for 100% Brainpower™ and cognitive control.
- Emotional states impact cognitive function and overall quality of life. Mind Lab Pro®'s integral approach supports optimal neurotransmitter levels, soothes nervous system activity, and promotes alpha brain wave activity to help manage anger before it boils over.
Stress is a natural part of everyday life that can trigger feelings of anger and frustration. It's okay to feel angry every now and then, but persistent or destructive outbursts can result in a wide range of undesirable consequences.
Mind Lab Pro® nootropics for anger can help modify emotional extremes and so you can keep a cool head when the fire down below burns a little too bright.