Heal Relationships With Forgiveness: The No. 1 Thing You Can Do to Reduce Stress in Your Life by Dr. Bradley Nelson
Many people struggle with emotional wounds over the holidays, including unresolved feelings from conflicts with family members and sadness, loneliness and grief over losses. I liken these to “Ghosts of Christmas Past” from Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol, and they can sabotage happiness through the holidays.
While holding a grudge can damage health and relationships, letting go of past hurts can lower stress levels and blood pressure and even help relieve symptoms of chronic pain, anxiety and depression. Forgiveness is the number one thing you can do to reduce stress in your life.
Many people may want to forgive but have difficulty doing so. A key to overcoming that hurdle is to reframe our view of forgiveness from something we do for others to something we also do for ourselves.
When we withhold forgiveness from someone who has hurt us, we may think that we are getting even or hurting that person, but nothing could be further from the truth. What we are really doing is we are hurting ourselves. Say someone has done something truly horrible that seems impossible for you to forgive. You have the power to do something meaningful that can be life-changing, especially for yourself, and that is to forgive! This gift to self brings joy and freedom from negativity. It allows you to fly above the fray!
Here are three steps to make forgiveness real in your life:
- Write a letter to the person you need to forgive. It can help to express and process the emotions you’ve dealt with and give you the opportunity to resolve and move past your negative feelings. If the letter seems that it might help the other person, send it. If it might do more damage than good to your relationship, or if they aren’t ready to receive it, the letter is just for you. It could be burned as a sign of sending it off or kept in your journal.
- Read stories about forgiveness. There are many true and amazing stories that portray the immense value of forgiveness. They can be very instructive and heartwarming, so Google some! Those who forgive win a battle over themselves. They are victorious in a profound way as they gain the capacity for greater love.
- Speak forgiveness. This can be telling yourself, praying to God or your higher power, or sharing thoughts with another person that you truly have forgiven the one who wronged you. This helps to affirm your decision to forgive and continue to be a person that places a high value on peace.
Often the person we need to forgive is ourselves. Failing to forgive ourselves for things we have said or done in the past can perpetuate emotional baggage and make it more difficult for us to forgive others.
- Go easy on yourself. How many times have you chastised yourself for making a poor decision, lashing out at others, being clumsy or running late? Most mistakes we make won't affect us in the long run. In fact, by recognizing the value in our own folly, we can learn some of life's most valuable lessons.
- Strive for a state of acceptance and understanding of others, despite their negative behavior or difficult nature. If there's someone who has hurt you or wronged you in some way, and you haven't forgiven them, your
stress level will inevitably be greater than it should be. The higher path of the spirit is to be at peace with the universe and with all our fellow beings. None of us are perfect and we all have reasons for acting the way we do, some of which we cannot see.
- Discover and release emotional baggage. People can free themselves of a major underlying cause of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, phobias, and other forms of mental illness by learning to release Trapped Emotions, the emotional baggage we all carry from life’s hurts.
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