Why ‘letting go’ is the best thing You Can Do For Yourself
guest post by Audrey Throne
You may feel that holding grudges, anger or resentment is natural, but have you ever considered the toll it takes on you? In a 1988 Gallup poll, it was found that almost 94 percent Americans recognize the importance of forgiveness but only 48 percent actually try to forgive others.
We live in an age where forgiveness is becoming a thing of the past and most mistakes end up being resolved in court rooms. We have failed to recognize that “letting go” is not a sign of weakness.
After all the importance of forgiving others has been mentioned countless times throughout history from children’s story books to religious scriptures – and for good reason.
An abundance of data and research state the numerous physical and mental benefits of forgiving others. You can actually be happier and healthier if you practice ‘forgiving’.
We know it’s hard:
Forgiving or ’letting go’ isn’t always a walk in the park. It may require you to revisit painful memories or talk to people that you absolutely despise. It’s especially difficult when you have been deliberately harmed by another person whether the damage was physical or emotional.
Car accidents or suffering do happen and another person may not always be responsible for the pain.
However, when someone physically or mentally assaults you with a specific intent to cause personal harm, the state of pain, agony, anger, frustration, and animosity is much more difficult to deal with.
When you’re chronically ill
When you are living with a chronic illness, your attitude, outlook on life, mental as well as emotional health is gravely affected. Some of us have the habit of wearing our ailments outwardly, while others have no apparent symptoms at all.
It is common, in fact normal, to get an earful of advice from people around you, who mean well, but just do not understand what struggles you are facing personally.
You might lose a few friendships, a marriage bond, the significant other along the way and sometimes even family members. You may leave the workforce permanently or temporarily; just like I did.
Because of my unstable health, I did not like the person I was becoming. I didn’t know who the person looking back at me in the mirror was anymore. I wouldn’t even look at myself in the mirror, most of the time.
Along with health, my physical appearance changed too. I struggled as an individual of faith with why I had to suffer in a painfully exhaustive way.
It’s not your fault
‘It is not my fault’ is what I realized one day. The physical trauma that I had experienced once in my life and how it triggered some of my chronic health conditions was not my fault.
It was not on me that I had to call off from work because I was unable to carry out basic work tasks like getting out of bed, taking a shower, doing laundry, making calls, or going to the store.
Once I understood that chronic, undiagnosed health conditions are not in your control, I was able to forgive myself and others for any kind of negative words shared, mistreatment or offensive conversations.
I forgave them for not knowing what I emotionally and physically endured for a long time, living with mostly invisible illnesses, conditioning myself to suffer in silence.
If you can relate to anything said above, take a moment to forgive yourself first and foremost, and then forgive everyone else who does not know what it’s like to be you. Whether this lot is your family, relatives, friends, children, co-workers, or spouse, forgive them with all your heart.
There is no reason for you to hold on to a grudge towards yourself or others. It will only worsen your suffering.
Benefits of letting go:
Letting go lowers stress:
Revisiting negative thoughts and experiences can cause an increase in stress. According to a study, forgiveness lowers the amount of cortisol which is a hormone released during stress. The study included 35 female and 36 male participants.
The physiological and emotional responses of participants were examined as they rehearsed painful memories and spoke about forgiveness compared with holding grudges towards real-life offenders. The results showed that forgiving thoughts prompted lower stress responses that could lead to improved health whereas unforgiving responses can erode it.
Letting go leads to a healthier heart:
Forgiveness eases the pain out, calms us and relaxes the heart. People say that only a person with a big heart is able to forgive others. While it does take emotional strength to let go of grudges, it is literally good for your heart.
Research suggests that holding onto grudges increases heart rate, while those that are more forgiving tend to have lower heart rates. This means that feelings of resentment and anger cause the heart to work overtime.
Letting go lowers blood pressure:
Thinking about those who have done you wrong typically makes your blood boil. It makes you angry and keeps your body in fight or flight mode. This increases blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart rate.
A study that included 44 male and 64 female college students showed that forgiveness can reduce allostatic load associated with negative emotions. Students that showed forgiveness during interviews displayed lower blood pressure levels.
Letting go means less pain:
Remembering traumatic experiences and painful memories surely causes emotional distress but can also be a source of physical pain. Research suggests that there is a connection between chronic pain and the difficulty of forgiving others.
The study included a total of 61 participants that suffered from chronic back pain and those that displayed forgiving behavior reported lower levels of pain. These results indicate an inverse relationship that exists between forgiveness and physical pain.
Letting go slows aging:
People tend to become more forgiving as they get older, but what if you could extend your life by forgiving others? Holding grudges can take away some years from your life. According to another study that assessed the relationship between mortality and forgiveness, results showed that people who are more forgiving tend to live longer.
Can you learn to be more forgiving?
Forgiveness is not just about saying the right words. According to Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, forgiveness is an active process in which individuals make conscious decisions to let go of negative feelings. Once you release the resentment, anger and hostility, you begin to feel compassionate and sometimes even affectionate towards the person who wronged you.
Many studies have found out that some people are naturally more forgiving, tending to be more satisfied with their lives and have less anxiety, stress, anger and hatred. Individuals who hold long time grudges are more prone to having persistent anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as other health conditions. This, however, does not mean they can’t train themselves to be calmer and act in healthier ways. According to a survey by the Non-profit Fetzer Institute, 62 percent of adult Americans say they need more ‘forgiveness’ in their lives.
Learning to let go:
Letting go is easier said than done. Experiencing hurt and pain is a part of life but what you do with these emotions is more important.
Make the decision:
Letting go of grudges requires commitment and effort. Some people may think that the suffering will disappear by itself, but the truth is that avoiding the matter is only going to make things worse. Emotions tend to build up inside and never disappear on their own. Realizing that you have a choice to let go and making a firm decision will help you to move on with life.
The human body is a complex machine, one that requires nurturing and relaxation to function properly. The way you treat your body will have a great impact on your mental condition. Factors such as stress and anxiety are likely to trigger past memories which make it difficult to let go.
To make sure that your mind and body are in an optimal condition, you need to exercise, maintain a healthy diet and get sufficient rest. A bike ride or a walk in the park is two great ways to exercise and also boost your mood.
Having a cup of your favorite herbal tea can also have a relaxing effect on the mind and body. Make sure to get enough rest to allow your body to recover from daily wear and tear.
Focus on the present:
It’s impossible to completely block out your past but focusing on the present will help you relieve pain and resentment. Reliving the past, blaming others and feeling like a victim is unlikely to affect anyone besides you.
Bad memories will always be lurking in some corner of your mind but filling yourself with joy and happiness will help to overpower them. Focusing on now will give you less time to think about the past. So the best you can do is make the present the best time of your life.
- Fibromyalgia and the importance of forgiveness
- Does anger increase pain?
- Are you happy? Or, just complacent?
- The importance of loving yourself, despite chronic illness
ABOUT Audrey Throne
Audrey Throne is a mother and a professional blogger by choice. She has completed her masters in English literature from university of Birmingham. As a blogger she wrote quite a few posts on health, technology as well as management. Currently, she is associate with Brain tests Team.
Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne.