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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 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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