1. Breathe deeply for 60 seconds
Upset can cause us to breathe shallowly and rapidly, so we can restore ourselves a bit by slowing our breath and getting oxygen into our system. When we’re breathing deeply, we want to breathe from our belly, not our chest — our belly should expand on intake and continue expanding until it can’t anymore.
One of my favorite quick deep breathing exercises is the 4-corner breathing meditation. It’s easy to do from almost anyplace and no one even has to know I’m doing it.
2. Recall a happy memory
Autobiographical memories can evoke the emotions of the original experience. Even in the face of acute stress, research has shown that happy memories can “trick” us back into a better emotional state.
It’s best if we already have a happy memory at our mental fingertips, so to speak. Read more details about this technique here: A super simple method for regaining self-control.
3. Put a label on the strong emotion you’re feeling
Recognizing and naming an emotion can have a powerful effect on quelling it. In essence, the act of considering and then labeling an emotion transforms the emotion into an object of scrutiny and disrupts the intensity.
Research suggests it’s as useful to label it silently to yourself as it is to say it out loud. Find out more about this technique here: Control your emotions better by labeling them.
4. Do something incompatible with the emotional state you’re in
Dr. Brad Bushman, who has done a great deal of research on anger, lists this technique among several that work because high arousal decays over time. Pet your puppy. Watch your favorite Robin Williams routine on YouTube (warning: nsfw).
Don’t make it hard, just something fun and easy. Listen to this episode of my podcast for more on this: Dr. Brad Bushman myth-busts venting.
If four isn’t enough, here are five more quick techniques to help you think straight in an argument.