The Leader’s Choice: Anger or Happiness

Anger Management

Something I have been saying most of my adult life is, “Anger is wasted energy.”

As much as that is true, the “wasted energy” is only part of the story. Anger can actually bring poor health and shortened life spans. We all know that anger can bring on lengthy bouts of distress and strained relationships with those closest to us; and I think we would all agree that the feeling of being out of control that often accompanies anger is almost always regretted after the fact.

Yet, despite our universal understanding of the futility of anger, most of us still allow it to consume us from time to time.

Your Response :: You Decide

Your response to anger might manifest in one of these forms:

  • simple, curt aggressiveness
  • passive aggressiveness
  • white-hot searing hostility

No matter which form you choose, unless the encounter erupts into violence, your anger will almost always do more harm to you than to the object of your anger.

Your anger will stay in your mind and become a festering lesion of stress and anxiety that can take weeks or months to heal. While you are fighting your internal demons, the person you are angry with will probably be out and about enjoying life, oblivious to your concerns.

At that point, it is only you that will be suffering from the cause of your anger.

On the physical side, people who are often angry may not produce adequate amounts of acetylcholine; the chemical that tempers the effects of the adrenaline produced during bouts of anger. Because their nervous system is working overtime, their constant anger can be the cause of a weakened heart and hardened arteries. They may also suffer from liver and kidney damage as well as heightened cholesterol levels.


In fact, studies have shown that people with high anger levels have twice the risk of heart disease and three times the risk of heart attack when compared to folks with the lowest anger levels.

Anger management is one aid to better health, but it only has value if handled properly. Unfortunately, one common method of controlling anger is to keep it bottled up while turning it inward. That method is usually called depression, which is potentially as dangerous as anger itself.

Life is Balancing ActThe key to anger management is balance. Lashing out at everything that annoys you is not good. But dealing with the issues that make you angry quickly is an effective method of controlling anger.

If another person makes you angry, you must communicate with them. Let them know that you are angry and tell them why. Speak calmly and always be controlled and reasonable.

Listen to their (stupid, inane, insensitive, or hateful) point-of-view and accept that they have a different perspective.

By doing this, you will force yourself and the other person to deal with the source of your vexation. It may not always result in an end to the problem, but it will dramatically cut your stress level and diminish your anger to something more akin to a difference-of-opinion or simple confusion.

These outcomes are much less likely to produce negative physical side-effects.

Anger Management

Science also shows us that anger can be controlled through exercise, meditation, humour, or some other diversion that will move our minds to more pleasing thoughts. Once we have moved to another place mentally, the source of our anger will not seem as daunting or offensive when our thoughts return to it again.

Think about this…

Essentially, anger is a human response to an external stimulus that can be controlled by our minds. Decide now to think deeply about your anger and work toward a life with as little of it as possible.

Your body will thank you!

On the happiness front, I am pleased to report that people with high levels of happiness tend to catch colds and influenza less often and present less significant symptoms, (than angry or depressed people) when they do get sick. Happy people generally have lower levels of stress hormones in their blood stream and lower blood pressure. Interestingly, recent studies have shown that listening to pleasing music can improve blood vessel and heart health…probably because it releases relaxing endorphins into the blood stream.

Be Happy

Be Happy, Mon! LOL!!!

To end this on a very happy note, I must mention the value of laughter…the ultimate expression of happiness. Laughter lowers blood pressure by causing deeper breathing and increased oxygenation to the blood stream.

Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases infection-fighting antibodies.

Laughter is good for your heart because it increases heart rate and pulse. It works out your:

  • diaphragm
  • abdominal muscles
  • respiratory system
  • back muscles

A good laugh can improve digestion and burn calories. Because it stimulates the left side of the brain, laughter can enable easier learning and better information retention while increasing alertness. In short, happiness can lead to a longer healthier life.

Anger or happiness…the choice is obvious!

So what are you doing to understand your “anger profile” so that you can take more steps to manage it? How are you controlling your reactions and taking responsibility for how you think? What steps can you take to improve your “happiness profile” so that you can lead others better? How can you model new behaviors to your team so that they can also benefit? I would love to hear your ideas!

Wayne Kehl is President and CCO at Dynamic Leadership Inc
He is author and behavioral analyst who lectures on leadership and motivation
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