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How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide)

We’ve all experienced unmet expectations and painful experiences. Though, when we hang onto them, we keep ourselves from soaring and enjoying our precious lives. Instead, we’re weighed down by pain and the burden of feeling betrayed. But it’s possible to let go, and I’m here to tell you that there is no better time than now for sacred personal healing.

In this article, I will share with you how by being forgiving, you can lead a happier life again. I’ll also show you the exact steps you can take to forgive someone who has hurt you.

Why it seems so difficult to forgive

I often see people stumble and get stuck on a loop because they believe that if they forgive, it will be as if the initial hurt or betrayal never happened. People that have been hurt feel that when someone has done something wrong, they should not be able to get away with it.

But that is simply not true. We don’t forgive someone else for their benefit, and we don’t try to pretend that nothing happened. Instead, we forgive for ourselves. We do it so that we can move beyond that hurt.

Another reason why it may feel hard to forgive is that we could perceive the act of forgiving as a betrayal to ourselves in some way, or we could feel that by forgiving we could be exposing ourselves to be vulnerable and get hurt again.

The hurt and wounds can leave feelings of bitterness, resentment, and anger for years. We can get to the point that we feel like victims because of what others did to us. When we feel like victims, our feelings are not protecting us, but are rather harming us. We find ourselves locked in emotional prisons filled with hurt. How can we live happy and expansive lives from that place?

The importance of learning to forgive

There are medical studies that show the link between forgiveness and health. Karen Swartz, a psychiatrist from Johns Hopkins Medicine shared that “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed”. She also stated that chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.

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Forgiveness, however, can lead to lower stress and anxiety levels, less depression, healthier and closer relationships, a healthier heart, lower levels of blood pressure, lower levels of physical pain, better sleep, better immune system function, and more. It’s very simple, by forgiving, we heal from the inside out!

Until we forgive, we are the ones paying the highest price. Our trapped emotions can become so overwhelming that they affect our current relationships and our ability to authentically and lovingly connect with ourselves and others. Only when we truly forgive will we be free of pain, hurt, and anger. If we hold onto them, we won’t be able to enjoy the present—and they will affect our health in many ways.

Here’s the thing: by forgiving, we won’t pretend that the initial hurt or betrayal never happened, we’re actually doing ourselves a favor. The person you forgive will still have their own karmic debt for all of their actions.

However, when we forgive, we’re becoming free. When we’re focused on resentments towards others or even ourselves, we won’t be able to listen to our soul’s messages. When we let go, we can tune in more deeply.

Forgiveness takes courage because beneath our personal story of pain and suffering, we always have the choice to access our wholeness, and to tap into our innate joy and compassion. Eventually, we will liberate our heart from the resentment prison, and we will be open to a new way of being and living that we might only dream of right now.

    How to forgive someone who has hurt you (Step-by-step guide)

    “Forgiveness is a conscious decision and a state of mind that we can cultivate through daily practice.” Here are some easy to follow steps that you can take to start your forgiveness journey:

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    1. Connect with your emotions

    Honor where you are in this moment, without judgement. Be gentle with yourself and take ownership of everything that comes up. Just be with the experience without blaming anyone. Something that you could do is to write down your thoughts and feelings on a piece of paper, so that you can get clear on what they are.

    Next, ask yourself what is it that you can do to find an outlet and work through those emotions: it could be going out for a walk, spending time in nature, doing something creative (paint, draw, color a mandala, sing, play music, etc), writing a Forgiveness Letter, getting help from a counselor or coach.

    2. Release the past

    In order to move forward in our lives, one of the key things we must do is release the past and live in the present moment. We often carry the past with us—and if we’re not aware of this, the past will weigh us down, and we will feel stuck. Without a regular practice of releasing, we develop a backlog of unprocessed emotions, and mental clutter. This clouds our vision, and can make it difficult to see the next steps towards a happier life.

    Practice living in the present moment by sitting quietly and observing your breathing, or simply going outside and appreciating the beauty around you now.

    You could also use journaling as another resource to be more present. You could ask yourself these questions as journaling prompts to help you release your trapped emotions: Who would I be without the anger, hurt, and resentment? How would my life be different?

    3. Take your power back

    Start writing a new story for yourself. You were not born a victim and forgiveness is not a one-time experience; you have to commit to keep choosing it over and over again. No one has the power to make you feel uneasy without your consent.

    When the familiar hurtful feelings come back, remind yourself that you are choosing to forgive; you choose to take your power back, and you are choosing love. I have used this affirmation myself, and it has been very helpful:

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    “Today is the perfect time for me to take my power back, because I love myself enough to let go of those old memories and emotions. I choose to be free and happier NOW”

    The willingness to change needs to come from deep inside of us. We find it when we begin to believe that having joyful, purposeful lives, full of loving and meaningful relationships is our birthright.

    4. Embrace the lesson

    Every experience we have is a learning experience. Sometimes we go through fire, but I can tell you that we come out stronger than before.

    Even if we think that what happened to us is unfair, those experiences are part of our spiritual growth here on the planet. If we’re open to see it, those dark times transform us and help us see new perspectives and insights. I have seen many people experience hard times, which have been the catalyst to creating a new and inspiring story for themselves.

    5. Send love and light

    Once you’ve gone through the steps above, you’ll be able to start sending love to the people that hurt you. I know it is hard at the beginning, but this is a game changer! Instead of sending bad vibes to the people that hurt you, send them love and light. When you do this, there is no emotional debt between you and them, and you can celebrate your own freedom with a grateful heart!

    As part of the forgiveness process, you also need to forgive yourself. We may have judgments about our own expectations. We may think about what should have or could have been.

    However, when we forgive, we have to give up the idea that the past should have or could have been different or better. We can’t change the past, so we should not let the past hold us prisoners. Instead, we need to see the hidden value of what happened, there’s always a lesson. As we develop that clarity, we free ourselves from the past and begin to look forward.

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    Start forgiving now

    Forgiving helps us to keep our energy clear.

    When we embrace forgiveness, we also embrace peace, hope, gratitude, joy, and general well-being. As we embrace it, we also embrace who we are—love. When we forgive, we are retaking power and control over our own lives.

    Forgiveness gives us freedom. Otherwise, we live carrying that emotional debt with us.

    Start forgiving with the steps I mentioned above and you will also start living a happier life.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    More by this author

    Patricia Young

    Certified Professional & Holistic Coach, bestselling author, host of the Awakening to Life podcast

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    Last Updated on June 26, 2019

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    13 Ways Happy People Think and Feel Differently

    Let me begin by being 100% frank with you – everyone is capable of happiness.

    Happiness is first a choice but it also takes persistence to maintain. Happiness is our birth right and my mission is to help as many people as I can live their happiest life.

    My mission is to spread the message that everyone deserves happiness.

    To live a happy life; however, you must do the work, gain the necessary knowledge, and increase your awareness.

    You must fully embody this state and begin to think and feel happiness on every level of your being.

    Often times, excuses present themselves and our mind gives us the reasons why we can’t be happy:

    “I am too busy right now to focus on happiness”

    “I will be happy when I finish school, when I have the money, when I am in the right relationship, when I have kids, when my children are older….”

    “I would have had a happy life if this traumatic event had never happened”

    “I don’t deserve happiness”

    EVERYONE deserves happiness. The reason that you are here right now is because you have a purpose and you are on the earth to enjoy your journey.

    Think BIGGER than your excuses. Push FARTHER than your complaints.

    Don’t be pulled away from greatness. Get uncomfortable. At least these are what happy and successful people do on a daily basis.

    If you would like to begin embodying this life-changing state, then… Here are the 13 ways happy people think and feel differently:

    1. Happy People Put Happiness First

    Happy people have made the decision that their end goal is happiness.

    Every situation, event, bad day ultimately ends with happiness.

    To them, happiness is equivalent to sleep and water – it is a necessity to their life. To live an unhappy life is to have never lived at all.

    The happy person asks,

    “What would be the point of living if every day and moment were filled with negativity?”

    “Why would I deplete my energy on negativity when I expend less to be positive?”

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    They make happy-based decisions which means in EVERY MOMENT they choose happiness.

    If their circumstances can’t change then they instead change their perspective, they look for the silver lining in the negative.

    Happy people don’t let negativity steal their moments away – a positive mindset always prevails.

    If you ask a happy person how their day was, they will always answer your question with a highlight or a lesson learned.

    2. Happy People Embrace Pain

    I know what you are thinking –

    “No one is ALWAYS happy”

    or …

    “Even happy people get in bad moods”

    and …

    These statements are absolutely accurate.

    Happy people aren’t always happy and they DO get into bad moods. They get overwhelmed, they feel defeated, and their feelings get hurt.

    Happy people aren’t invincible and they feel pain just like everyone else. The only difference between happy people and people who let negativity run their lives is that…

    Happy people quickly acknowledge their pain and they make a decision to find a way to transform their pain into something greater. They also use these 13 simple ways to shake off the sadness.

    Happy people admit the negativity they feel and they do what it takes to get back into their natural state: happiness.

    When your end goal is happiness, then you will find a way to achieve it no matter how much strength you have to muster.

    3. Happy People Have a Happy Self-Image

    We all have an image in our minds that we subconsciously live up to.

    The reason that change is so hard is because our subconscious mind is programmed to live by how we define ourselves.

    How are you currently defining yourself?

    For happy people, they see themselves with a smile, positive outlook, and/or a bounce in their step. When an event or situation arises that brings in a negative emotion, they quickly change their state to resemble their natural self-image.

    When happy people are in a bad mood, it feels unusual to them because feeling negative isn’t aligned with how they see themselves. When they feel upset, they acknowledge the negativity and look for a solution to bring their emotions to the level of how they perceive themselves.

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    Look at how you define yourself today – your mind and body are always trying to live up to the definition it is taught to believe.

    Your body’s job is to keep you in a “normal” state because this is where it feels most comfortable.

    If your self-image is happy, then your mind and body will naturally be brought back to where it feels at home. Your actions will be a clue to how you define yourself.

    Take a look at this guide and learn to build positive self-image: How to Build Self Esteem (A Guide to Realize Your Hidden Power)

    4. Happy People Have a Strong Support System

    The happiest people know that it takes a village and they lean on others for support.

    Happy people feel comfortable reaching out for help when they feel that their resistances are overpowering them. They quickly sense their negativity and they tell somebody.

    Happy people ask for assistance when they can’t figure out a problem. Seeking help takes strength and it never gets in the way of their self-worth. Happy people appreciate the wisdom that their support system provides.

    They have strong connections with the people who are close to them. They never trudge through tough times alone because jeopardizing their happiness for too long would be detrimental to their well-being.

    5. Happy People Safeguard Their Minds from Negative Triggers

    Warding off negativity is almost impossible when we live in a society that lives by what went wrong and feeds off of what could go wrong. News travels instantaneously so it would be unrealistic to shut this out of your life completely.

    However, one strategy that happy people use to safeguard their minds is regulating their environment.

    We have a lot of control on how we allow our environments to affect us. We can control our social media feed, the television shows and movies we watch, the books that we read, the people that we spend our time with, and the places that we hang out.

    If happiness is your end goal, then take a good look at what is bringing you down. What triggers your unhappiness? See if there is anything in your environment that can be changed……

    What we listen to, read, and who we hang out with influence our mind, what we think about, what we worry about, our reactions, and behaviors.

    Happy people know what triggers a feeling of negativity and it feels out of alignment for them so they do what it takes to avoid it.

    They might regulate their social media news feed to reflect the information that brings them positive energy. They might regulate the people that they spend their time with. It is important to hang out with like-minded people.

    What are your triggers? How can you avoid the negativity in your environment?

    These are ways that happy people regulate their environment and safeguard their minds: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions

    6. Happy People Know When to Say “No”

    Happy people know when to sit one out and say “no.” They do this to protect their happiness and well-being.

    Life gets overwhelming – a lot of people need our attention and the to do list can seem never ending.

    Happy people give themselves permission to take the day off and they feel comfortable with saying “no” when their stress levels begin to climb. They understand that those around them aren’t benefiting from someone who is frazzled, overwhelmed, and tired.

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    A happy person identifies their negative emotion and then they quickly treat it to bring themselves back to their “normal” state, so that they can be at their best for not only themselves but for those around them, too.

    A simple “no” can ultimately mean many more “yes’s” in the future because happiness has a long battery life. You can take a look at Leo Babauta’s article The Gentle Art of Saying No and learn to say no.

    7. Happy People Are Good Evaluators

    Happy people can quickly sense when something is off with themselves or others. They are very intuitive to happiness levels. When someone isn’t quite right, they are the first ones to notice.

    Being able to evaluate happiness means that you can identify when negativity is lingering around for too long.

    We all have bad days; however, the happy person evaluates often and quickly intervenes.

    In other words, happy people frequently evaluate their state and immediately change when their pessimism is overshadowing their joy.

    8. Happy People Bring Other People Up

    What goes on inside of us is mirrored into our physical world.

    What we think about literally consumes our life and is displayed in our work, relationships, and attitude.

    Happy people naturally feel good inside and about themselves so they treat others the way that they treat themselves. It never feels forced to give a compliment or to help out a stranger.

    When we are truly happy with ourselves, everyone around us has a better experience. Happy people are kind to themselves and because of this, it feels natural to them to want to make others’ happy, too.

    9. Happy People Go After Their Dreams

    Happy people are always following the joyful path. They make happy-based decisions and because of this, they always end up where they want to be.

    It’s absolutely impossible to be happy by following an undesirable path, which is quite opposite for unhappy people.

    Most people journey through life on a path they think they are “supposed” to be own. Warning signs (negativity) are often ignored because they truly believe that these feelings are a normal part of life.

    Negativity is NOT normal.

    The happiest people investigate the negativity in their life and quickly analyze the results. This process allows them to get back on the joyful path which ends in a desirable outcome.

    Follow your happiness and your dreams will come true (If that isn’t motivation then I don’t know what is!)

    In addition to happiness, here are 14 amazing things that happen when you live your passion.

    10. Happy People Never Sweat the Small Stuff

    The only expectation that the happy person has is that they remain in a joyful state.

    They rarely have expectations for the events and people in their lives because they know that this is a sure way to get let down.

    The happiest people take life as it comes – you could say that they roll with the punches. When you don’t have expectations, then you can just sit back and watch how beautifully life unfolds.

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    Happy people understand that bad things are inevitable, they are a part of life – The car will break, the kids will make mistakes, people will be late, and dinner will burn.

    If it’s not anything seriously affecting their lives, then they don’t give their energy to it.

    11. Happy People Rarely Have to Prove That They Are Right

    Happy people remember that it’s more important to live up to what they believe. When you live your life aligned with your belief system, then there is no need to explain or prove yourself to others.

    Differences in opinions are inevitable, but the happiest of people know it’s wasted energy to defend their position.

    It is more effective to simply show people, through actions, how you think, feel, and what you believe.

    Energy is saved, arguments are diminished, and credibility/respect are gained when we live by what we believe.

    12. Happy People Smile (Even When They Don’t Want To)

    Smiling is one of the healthiest things we can do; and happy people use this simple trick quite often.

    It has been proven that smiling has the ability to boost your immune system, decrease stress levels, and can even make you look younger. The benefits of smiling have even been backed up by science.[1]

    Better yet, smiling is contagious. When you engage in a quick smile, you are likely to brighten someone else’s day along with your own. It is no wonder why happy people smile often!

    13. Happy People Live Life in the Present Moment

    When we are genuinely happy, we are living for the moment.

    Happy people let go of the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to the future. They take the moments for what they are worth – they only invest their energy in what feels right to them.

    These tips on How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future maybe helpful for you.

    Everyone is capable of living a happy-centered life. You deserve a life that you desire – your dream life. All you have to start doing is make happy-based decisions TODAY.

    In every moment, decide on what makes you happy – decide on what gets you excited. Stop doing what you don’t love, don’t listen to the people that you dislike.

    If you are engaging in something that isn’t bringing you joy, then quit doing it. Listen to your heart, stop ignoring the warning signs (negativity) because they are there for a reason.

    Final Thoughts

    I have observed, studied, and interviewed some of the happiest and most successful people along with some of the most miserable and self-loathing.

    It starts with one decision – happiness.

    The happiest, most successful people choose happiness with EACH and EVERY decision. And you can start doing this today.

    Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Business Review: The Science Behind the Smile

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