I wanted to write about anger management, but I’ve changed my mind. It is winter holydays time, a time for celebration and for being grateful for what we have, it is time to bring kindness to others and to be generous.
Don’t get me wrong; we shouldn’t limit ourselves just for holydays time; gratitude and kindness must be deliberately cultivated, must be taught and practiced regularly until they become a habit. As Plato said: A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.
You might ask: what does anger, gratitude and kindness have in common? From all negative emotions, anger is the one that is the hardest to be controlled by people. But the thing I find to be most annoying is that being angry hurts us and people that are the closest for us: family and friends, the persons to whom we should actually express our gratitude instead.
People usually experience anger when they think they are being mistreated or that someone was hurting them or taking advantage of them, or when they feel they are not getting what they are entitled to get (love, money, respect, promotion…).
Gratitude on the other hand means thinking about and being thankful for experiences or qualities in us, in other people and the world. When we can identify things to be grateful for or things we appreciate, we are more likely to strengthen positive moods and thus to feel happier. By cultivating gratitude on a daily basis (for example by keeping a gratitude journal) it becomes a mindset so it becomes our nature to notice and experience more positive moods and to shift our perspective from negative to positive. Numerous studies showed that gratitude is strongly correlated with well-being: it improves emotional and physical health, it strengthens relationships and communities.
In addition to being grateful for the positives in our lives, another way to activate positive moods is to do kind things for other people. When we are kind to other people, we often experience a mood boost and greater happiness. Being kind include small things like opening the door for someone, buying lunch for a friend, smiling at a stranger, saying encouraging words for someone in distress…
Howard Norton, professor at Harvard Business School, says that being generous boosts happiness levels because when we give, we have the feeling that we’ve had a positive impact on another person and the feeling that we’re having an impact on the world is good for our wellbeing, so we feel competent and capable people. Another reason is reciprocity: when we are kind and generous, others like us better and therefore they are likely to be kind and generous in return. It is hard to imagine that if you are treating someone with kindness, this person will answer back by making you angry.
Unfortunately, we can not escape from feeling sometimes angry so we have to live with the idea that it can happen to us, even if we, let’s say are happy people. Admitting that it is ok to experience from time to time negative emotions is part of turning kindness towards us.