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Forgive for Your Health
Forgive for Your Health
In recent years an impressive amount of research has pointed to the health benefits of forgiving—not only forgiving others, but also forgiving oneself and forgiving unexpected or unpleasant situations or circumstances.
Several scientific studies, including one published in the June 2004 issue of Psychology and Health, have shown that forgiveness can actually improve health conditions, including blood pressure, heart rate, pain, fatigue and more.
Forgiving improves health in two ways. First, it can reduce or eliminate a wide range of negative emotions (think anger, guilt, shame, fear, hurt and disappointment), which trigger physiological effects on the body. Second, it can enhance health indirectly by promoting positive health behaviors, increasing social support and improving interpersonal, marital and family functioning.
Key steps and attitudes to forgiveness
Grudges don’t do anyone any good, but they’re not always easy to give up. Here are some mindset shifts that will prepare you to forgive:
- Always set the goal first. Are you hoping for peace, happiness, love, joy, harmony, improved health or healed relationships? Keep focusing on the goal.
- Have a little willingness to forgive. Be willing to shift your attitudes, perspectives and perceptions. Be willing to see things differently. Forgiveness starts with willingness.
- Be willing to let go of being right. In other words, be willing to let go of blame. Choose to be happy rather than right.
- Be willing to let go of the hope for a different and better past.
- Start focusing on what you want instead of what you don’t want.
- Let go of “unenforceable” rules—shoulds and shouldn’ts.
- Turn the forgiveness process over to a higher, wiser force or power.
- Realize that forgiveness is a process that unfolds over time. Be patient with yourself. You are forgiving yourself, others and circumstances for the emotional, health and relationship benefits it will have for you.
- Take one small step at a time: “A yard is hard, but an inch is a cinch.”
Now that you’re in the right frame of mind to let go of your grudge, use these tools and tips to make it happen:
- Use affirmations throughout the day. Here are two of the 30 affirmations in my book, The Forgiveness Solution (Conari Press, 2010):
-Inherent in every grievance, judgment and attack, thought is the seed of the opportunity for forgiveness. I will look for that seed and nurture it.
-I am the inner light of the self/being. My forgiveness reveals that inner light in all beings.
- Practice afformations. Afformations are empowering questions that change a person's subconscious thought patterns from negative to positive. Here’s one of the nine afformations in my book: “Why have I been able to forgive so easily now, when at first it appeared so difficult?” Again, practice throughout the day.
- Write letters. Write three letters (without sending them) to another person. In the first, express what you are thinking or feeling without editing. A few days later, rewrite the first letter, taking out all the blame, owning and expressing your feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, sadness, anxiety, regret, disappointment and shame. Wait another few days before writing your “ideal response letter” from the perspective of the person who has received your second letter and is writing back with exactly what you would like to hear.
- Use the Psychological Uplifter. Put one hand on your heart and say out loud, “Even though I feel (hurt, angry, guilty, sad, anxious, regretful, shameful) I accept myself deeply and profoundly, and I am a good, competent and magnificent person.” With your hand still on your heart, say, “I love myself unconditionally despite my problems, limitations and challenges,” and “I am entitled to miracles.” Repeat each phrase three times. Do this exercise five times a day. Be open to miracles happening.
- Repeat the phrase, “I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you,” frequently throughout the day.
- Observe how often you think about what you or other people should do, and make a conscious choice to let the shoulds go.
Many people also find that keeping a daily forgiveness journal is very helpful and beneficial. In addition, a gratitude journal can help you focus on what you are grateful for in your life. Practicing these attitudes, tools and perspectives will gradually or sometimes dramatically improve your health and overall quality of life.
Dr. Friedman is a licensed clinical psychologist and psychotherapist in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He is director of the Foundation for Well-Being and the author of The Forgiveness Solution: The Whole Body Rx for Finding True Happiness, Abundant Love and Inner Peace and Creating Well-Being: The Healing Path to Love, Peace, Self-Esteem and Happiness. He is a certified Law of Attraction facilitator and trainer; an adjunct professor on the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology faculty in Palo Alto, Calif.; a diplomate in comprehensive energy psychology; and founder of the Positive Pressure Point Techniques, a form of energy therapy. For more information visit www.philipfriedman.com.
May 17th, 2012