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5 Ways Forgiveness Can Benefit Your Life

5 Ways Forgiveness Can Benefit Your Life

Take a moment and ask yourself –  what are you holding onto? It’s a question we don’t often stop to consider but we should, because too many of us are shouldering anger or resentment, a slight that we just never got over. And it’s apparent in our stress levels and health. Simply put, it’s hurting us.

It doesn’t have to be like this. We can help to stop the damage with a single act. We can forgive.

Too often we hold onto unpleasant memories long after we should because it’s hard to forgive. After all, who can forget that girl in high school who made their life miserable? Or that boss who passed them over for a job promotion that they deserved? A father who maybe wasn’t there when he should have been?

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But ask yourself – what are these memories doing to you? How are they affecting your body and health? As Dr. Karen Swartz stated, “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.”

Forgiveness may be difficult, but its positive effects on our physical and mental health are mounting. And it can be cultivated through practice. Need reasons to give it a try? Here are five that you can check on.

1. It reduces stress and stress-related disorders.

Research has repeatedly shown the negative impact of stress on our health. But evidence is accumulating on the positive role forgiveness can play in disrupting this cycle.

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For example, a recent study of 338 adults showed that greater forgiveness was associated over time with less stress and, as a consequence, better mental health. Another study by the same author found that forgiveness  caused the relationship between stress and mental illness to disappear. In a recent interview, the lead researcher stated that “If you don’t have forgiving tendencies, you feel the raw effects of stress in an unmitigated way. You don’t have a buffer against that stress.”

Given the immense problem of stress in our society, forgiveness may be one way to reduce its impact and help out our health in the process.

2. It can lower depression.

Carrying around unresolved anger, pain, and resentment can take a toll on our mental health. Research suggests that “forgiveness therapy”, which is intended to foster forgiveness, can be helpful in alleviating depression.

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Forgiveness of oneself is also helpful in reducing depression, as an earlier study also reported that self-forgiveness decreased depression and, consequently, also reduced the rates of suicide. Considering forgiveness as a two-sided process – one aimed at forgiving others and another at forgiving yourself – may help bolster mood and emotional health.

3. It protects your heart.

We feel this both physically and metaphorically. Numerous studies have found that forgiveness lowers blood pressure, and a recent one showed that it also improved a marker of coronary perfusion.

Forgiveness can help prevent damage to the heart but also reduce problematic symptoms in those with heart disease. One study analyzed individuals with coronary artery disease who experienced anger-recall induced changes in myocardial perfusion. They divided subjects into two groups –a control and a forgiveness group. Not surprisingly, they found that those in the forgiveness group showed decreased anger-recall induced myocardial perfusion defects. In other words, the function of their heart improved. And, of course, no data can quantify the effect on one’s heart when we release the burden of anger.

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4. It can strengthen relationships.

Even the best of relationships can suffer from miscommunication, perceived slights, and insult. We can hold this close to us, vowing never to forget, but that does nothing to allow a relationship to grow. Furthermore, it is likely to skew our perspective of the other’s intentions and feelings towards us. What starts as something small can then snowball into a much bigger problem.

Rather, learning to forgive and even understand another’s viewpoint can foster the growth of a relationship. For example, a study found that forgiveness was the one variable that predicted growth following an infidelity. Forgiveness is crucial to letting go and moving forward.

5. It can help you reach your potential.

We all have dreams and aspirations but are often quick to beat ourselves up for the poor choices we made, the missteps we took, and the people we naively trusted. And too often we don’t forgive ourselves for our perceived wrong-doings. This becomes a heavy weight to carry. It colors our trust in ourselves, confidence in our abilities, and belief in our future. It can materialize as depression and anxiety, low self-worth, and an unwillingness to take risks and put ourselves out there.

If we don’t practice self-forgiveness, we may limit our potential. We may undercut our abilities and second-guess our decisions. We may never summon the courage to do what we really dream of doing. We may never give the world the unique gifts we have to offer.

Forgiveness is healing for our body and mind. If we all were to dedicate ourselves to cultivating it, the world might be a much better place.

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Last Updated on January 25, 2021

What Should I Do Today? 30 New Things To Do Today

What Should I Do Today? 30 New Things To Do Today

It’s always fun to do something new, but often we fall into the trap of spending our weekends the same way.

If you’re stuck in the same old routine, it might be time to try something new.

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What should I do today? No ideas?

Everything listed here is something you can easily do no matter where you live, and even on a tight budget! Try out one of these 30 new things today, you’ll be happy you did.

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Try Out These 30 New Things To Do Today

  1. Visit a suburb in your city that you’ve never been to before, or somewhere you haven’t explored much.
  2. Learn ten phrases in a new language–what about Japanese, Italian or Portuguese?
  3. Listen to a genre of music you haven’t tried before–perhaps Jazz, Punk or Blues?
  4. Have a picnic in your local park complete with a packed lunch and your animal friends.
  5. Start a daily journal to write your thoughts in.
  6. Try a new cuisine–what about French, Lebanese or Korean?
  7. Visit your local library and borrow some books for the weekend.
  8. Plant some flowers in your garden. If you don’t have one, try an indoor potted plant.
  9. Visit a local museum or art gallery and view their latest exhibition.
  10. Learn a new skill–what about sewing, gardening or cooking? You’ll be surprised what you can learn in an afternoon.
  11. Say hello to a neighbor you don’t usually talk to.
  12. Make a card for a friend and send it to them with a handwritten note.
  13. Learn how to cook a new dish for dinner. We all get tired of eating the same thing, why not try making something new?
  14. Re-read an old favorite book. Don’t leave it gathering dust on your book shelf; get it out and read it all over again.
  15. Research the culture of a different country online–what about India, Guatemala or Sweden?
  16. Go for a walk or bicycle ride around your neighborhood.
  17. Watch a classic film like Casablanca, The Godfather or The Wizard of Oz.
  18. Make a photo album of a recent holiday you took. Don’t let your memories get lost on your computer hard drive; make a special keepsake album of your trip.
  19. Visit your local farmers markets and pick out some fresh produce. Farmers markets are full of delicious fresh fruit, veggies and more. Find your local market and take a visit.
  20. Plan a day trip to somewhere outside your city–it might be the seaside, mountains or another city!
  21. Check out what community events are running in your area and attend one.
  22. Make a birthday present for a friend. Handmade gifts are personal and much more special than anything you could buy from a store.
  23. Attend a play at your local theater. Support your local theater and have a fun night out at the same time.
  24. Volunteer with your local nature conservation society to plant some trees. Conservation societies are always looking for helping hands; do your bit and plant some trees.
  25. Be a tourist in your own city and visit all the popular tourist sites you’ve likely never been to (don’t forget your camera!)
  26. Call a friend you haven’t spoken to recently and have a good long chat.
  27. Put on your favorite song and dance your heart out. You might be surprised at how much fun you have!
  28. Invite some friends over for a BBQ. There’s nothing better than an afternoon spent with good friends and good food.
  29. Try out a new form of exercise like Pilates, tennis or swimming.
  30. Organize a clothing swap with your friends. You’ll have a great time, and save some cash and the environment all at the same time!

Now that you’ve read my list of 30 new things to try today, my question for you is, “what new things will you try today?”

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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