Lo and behold, the old expression of anger ‘Go take a hike!’ turns out to be good advice. It can save friendships and fix marriage problems. Here's how.
When a person feels anger boiling up, the physical motion of walking is soothing. Like thumb-sucking for an infant, repetitive motions of walking, of putting one foot in front of the other, have a calming impact. Sunshine induces warm and bright inner feelings, cooling the heat and lightening the darkness of anger. Green inherently invites a relaxed and upbeat tone. Try looking out the window at a green lawn and green trees. Even just gazing at the picture atop this article is likely to induce a positive mood.
When you are mad at a particular person such as your loved one, go one step further. Take a hike together.
When two angry people, furious at each other, stroll out the front door, there’s no need to talk right away. Let the walking do the talking at first. Enjoy the steady rhythm as you swing your arms and alternate your legs, left, right, left. Drink in the uplifting sunshine and let the leaves on green trees work their magic.
As you feel calmer, walking side by side adds another key element to being able to eliminate the feeling of being boxers in a ring together. Eye-to-eye contact invites either love or fights. Lovers look into each other’s eyes and feel positively energized, more joyful and bonded. Angry eye-to-eye glares however produce the opposite message: attack, or run away fast!
So when two people are taking a hike together after a fight, best not to risk looking at each other, ‘facing off.” In a side-by-side stroll, looking ahead instead of at each other, two people are likely to be able to replace the stance of enemies with a sense of being allies
A calmer emotional state plus resumption of the feeling of partnership makes it safe for talking to resume. As two people walk together side by side, the temptation to blame or complain about what the other person did lessons, fostering more productive dialogue. Walking side by side encourages each person to look at his or her own part in what went askew.
A side-by-side interim of togetherness, especially in a calm and beautiful park or other green, sunny and quiet outdoor setting, really can enable the glare of anger to transition back to the affection of lovers.
If you live in an urban environment, do take advantage of your city or town’s parks and gardens. If you can escape for even a brief visit to any natural landscape that has not yet been paved over with roads or succumbed to urban development, visit this anti-stress remedy. One recent Stanford University study of 38 San Francisco city-dwellers compared the impacts on stress of one 90-minute walk in a lushly green natural environment each week with a similar walk on a three-lane busy city street. Walking in the natural environment more effectively lowered negative ruminations, activity in the right prefrontal lobe [the side associated with unhappiness], and also the frequency of mental health problems. Instead of taking pills, head for the hills—or fields, lakes or seacoast.
So what can you do next time you feel about to send a steam of anger out of your flared nostrils? Cool your inner dragon. Take a hike.
Denver clinical psychologist Susan Heitler, Ph.D. author of the book on therapy called From Conflict to Resolution, specializes in marriage therapy. Her books The Power of Two and The Power of Two Workbook, and also her interactive PowerOfTwoMarriage website offer helpful resources for couples who want to learn the skills for a fully gratifying marriage partnership.
Here's more, a video on how to keep cool instead of letting your anger get the best of you.