The practice of mindfulness involves deliberately resting one’s attention on present moment sensations such as the breath. The practitioner assumes an awake yet relaxed posture in their body, and then places their attention on the breath. When one notices that the mind has drifted away from the object of meditation, attention is then again gently brought back to the object, in this case the breath.
This practice, which is very simple, is also quite difficult, mostly because our minds are not trained to be present. Instead we spend most of our waking hours in distraction and random, discursive thinking. Because we have never cultivated this ability of mind to simply be present, our ‘’ is weak, and we find we have little control over our thinking process.
For thousands of years meditators from various traditions have known that by working with the simple technique of repeatedly bringing our attention back to the present moment, our ability to be fully present with our experience, both during formal meditation practice and in our everyday life, steadily increases. In recent decades extensive studies have confirmed this claim through the lens of scientific inquiry.
Studies on mindfulness and how it interplays with rumination, positive attitudes, self awareness, cognitive functioning, and emotional well being, and others all point to the beneficial effects of mindfulness for anger. What follows is an overview of some of that research:
Rumination is when a person repeatedly fixates on negative thoughts about the past and future. Rumination keeps one stuck in a cycle of negative thinking about perceived wrongs from the past, and projects similar thoughts onto possible situations in the future. Research has shown that rumination is a major factor in the creation and perpetuation of chronic anger management problems.
Rumination is associated with decreased neuropsychological flexibility, or in simpler language, decreased ability of the mind to be responsive. Rather than responding to situations in a realistic way, rumination causes one to react in fixated patterns based on fear.
By contrast, research has shown that mindfulness cultivates greater neuropsychological flexibility. When practiced regularly mindfulness increases the mind’s capacity to respond to situations in a more accurate and appropriate manner. The intentional ‘‘here and now’’ focus of attention contrasts with the seemingly uncontrollable mental circles people experience when they are ruminating.
Our contemporary scientific community has been discovering what the ancients have known for millennia: mindfulness works.
Extensive research shows that mindfulness decreases rumination and increases the natural process of being aware in the present moment. Mindfulness cultivates an attention to and awareness of the ‘here and now’, being attentive to what is currently happening rather than swirling in the endless loops of the past and future.
Rumination makes it difficult to step back and release oneself from the grips of negative emotions such as anger because the thinking process becomes rigid and unchanging. Mindfulness breaks the rumination cycle by grounding oneself in the reality of the present moment.
Mindfulness practice helps us consciously redirect our attention away from past negative memories or worrying thoughts about the future, back to the present moment sensations and impressions. The process of continual returning one’s attention to the present creates a new mental habituation, and one develops the ability to step away from the cyclical trap of rumination, and hence anger.
As shown in various studies, mindfulness fosters a positive and non-judgmental attitude. Practicing mindfulness helps one to be more open to one’s internal and external experience. Thus mindfulness cuts down on the reactiveness normally associated with chronic anger.
Extensive research suggests that mindfulness is associated with a range of positive outcomes, from improved life satisfaction and positive mood to decreased stress.
When people have habitual anger they are in a state of perpetual reactivity to every little inconvenience and discomfort. Mindfulness meditation helps to lessen this reactivity by cultivating a more open and receptive mind set. Mindfulness meditation has also been shown to foster a more realistic perspective on one’s experience, making us less likely to perceive offense and injustice every time things don’t go our way.
Self-awareness has been shown to decrease physical and verbal aggression. Research demonstrates that mindfulness meditation increases self-awareness. Research has also shown that mindfulness increases one’s attention to and clarity of feelings, and also makes one more aware of one’s own inner values, such as not wanting to act aggressively.
Mindfulness training leads to a better functioning memory, sustained attention span, and cognitive inhibition, or control over one’s thinking process. Aggression on the other hand is shown to rise with lower performance of these same cognitive factors. Thus the increased cognitive abilities cultivated through mindfulness practice decrease aggression.
Studies have shown that increased mindfulness strengthens one’s ability to regulate emotional experience including anger. Extensive research has shown that mindfulness can help people better deal with and even change their emotions. Mindfulness practice helps us see how emotions come and go and aren’t so solid as we might have thought. In this way we learn to identify less strongly with emotions, we understand them more clearly, and thus are able to develop more emotional intelligence.
Having published the book ‘‘, we are pleased to announce the opportunity to put these principles into practice.
As previous participants, life would surely have presented circumstances for your newly gained anger management skills to be tested. Having applied your key learning, perhaps some of you are asking, what’s the next step?
At least, this is certainly the question that’s been presented to us. So, we decided to put words into action and design a 7-day Retreat in Malaga, Spain exploring the ideas written in Mindfulness & the Art of Managing Anger.
Modern life demands that we whizz about at a million miles per hour, so here’s an opportunity to literally catch your breath, drop into yourself, breathe, enter the sacredness of your being and settle into a nourishing stillness.
We will develop more on your anger management skills and there will also be time for yoga, meditation, great conversations, eating, swimming, laughing, dancing, singing, walking, horse riding, taking photo’s and soaking up the sun. Engage in whatever you enjoy to slow down, meet some great people and engage in something bigger than yourself.
- Mindfulness – medicine of the future
- The Breath – a pathway to tranquillity
- Letting go of attachments – Zero Duality Training
- Reducing emotional obstacles one by one
- Welcoming stillness into your life
- Facing your fear and doing it anyway
- Making space for solitude
- Tuning in – a guide to different meditations
- Encouraging a daily practice
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves concentration and creativity
- Helps decrease anxiety and depression
- Improves self-esteem
- Reduces pain levels
- Improves immune system functioning
- Results in a greater sense of well-being and satisfaction with life
What we are excited about is that we have recognised that mindfulness represents the medicine of the century. More people recognise that there needs to be a balance between medical science, therapy, mindfulness and neuroscience. This is so exciting because it’s happening right now under our noses and we love it.
Anger affects every single one of us, whether we like to admit it or not. Our families are also affected by our anger whether we like to admit it or not. Sort your anger out, and make everyone happy!
To find out more about the Mindfulness Retreat or to book please visit:
You can also contact the author of this blog, Mike Fisher, Europe’s leading Anger Management and Mindfulness Specialist and his team on: