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Last Updated on May 18, 2018

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 February 21, 2019

    The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

    The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

    In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

    Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

    Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

    Conflicts are literally everywhere.

    Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

    Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

    Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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    Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

    Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

    Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

    The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

    Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

    Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

    How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

    Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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    Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

    Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

    How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

    Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

    Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

    Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

    How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

    Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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    Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

    Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

    How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

    Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

    Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

    Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

    How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

    Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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    Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

    Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

    How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

    Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

    Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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