Tag Archives: Commitment

Forgiveness: Letting Go Of Grudges And Bitterness

When someone you care about hurts you, you can hold on to anger, resentment and thoughts of revenge — or embrace forgiveness and move forward.

Nearly everyone has been hurt by the actions or words of another. Perhaps your mother criticized your parenting skills, your colleague sabotaged a project or your partner had an affair. These wounds can leave you with lasting feelings of anger, bitterness or even vengeance — but if you don’t practice forgiveness, you might be the one who pays most dearly. By embracing forgiveness, you can also embrace peace, hope, gratitude and joy. Consider how forgiveness can lead you down the path of physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

What is forgiveness?

Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.

What are the benefits of forgiving someone?

Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for compassion, kindness and peace. Forgiveness can lead to:

• Healthier relationships
• Greater spiritual and psychological well-being
• Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
• Lower blood pressure
• Fewer symptoms of depression
• Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

Why is it so easy to hold a grudge?

When you’re hurt by someone you love and trust, you might become angry, sad or confused. If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice.

What are the effects of holding a grudge?

If you’re unforgiving, you might pay the price repeatedly by bringing anger and bitterness into every relationship and new experience. Your life might become so wrapped up in the wrong that you can’t enjoy the present. You might become depressed or anxious. You might feel that your life lacks meaning or purpose, or that you’re at odds with your spiritual beliefs. You might lose valuable and enriching connectedness with others.

How do I reach a state of forgiveness?

Forgiveness is a commitment to a process of change. To begin, you might:

• Consider the value of forgiveness and its importance in your life at a given time
• Reflect on the facts of the situation, how you’ve reacted, and how this combination has affected your life, health and well-being
• When you’re ready, actively choose to forgive the person who’s offended you
• Move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life

As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

What if I have to interact with the person who hurt me but I don’t want to?

If you haven’t reached a state of forgiveness, being near the person who hurts you might be tense and stressful. To handle these situations, remember that you can choose to attend or avoid specific functions and gatherings. Respect yourself and do what seems best. If you choose to attend, don’t be surprised by a certain amount of awkwardness and perhaps even more intense feelings. Do your best to keep an open heart and mind. You might find that the experience helps you to move forward with forgiveness.

What if the person I’m forgiving doesn’t change?

Getting another person to change his or her actions, behavior or words isn’t the point of forgiveness. Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

What if I’m the one who needs forgiveness?

The first step is to honestly assess and acknowledge the wrongs you’ve done and how those wrongs have affected others. At the same time, avoid judging yourself too harshly. You’re human, and you’ll make mistakes. If you’re truly sorry for something you’ve said or done, consider admitting it to those you’ve harmed. Speak of your sincere sorrow or regret, and specifically, ask for forgiveness — without making excuses. Remember, however, you can’t force someone to forgive you. Others need to move to forgiveness in their own time. Whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.

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10 Practical Ways To Handle Stress

Stress is inevitable. It walks in and out of our lives on a regular basis. And it can easily walk all over us unless we take action. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize and cope with stress. Here are 10 ideas for handling stress without causing more strain and hassle.

1. Figure out where the stress is coming from.

Oftentimes, when we’re stressed, it seems like a big mess with stressors appearing from every angle. We start to feel like we’re playing a game of dodgeball, ducking and darting so we don’t get smacked by a barrage of balls. We take a defensive position, and not a good one at that.

Instead of feeling like you’re flailing day to day, identify what you’re actually stressed about. Is it a specific project at work, an upcoming exam, a dispute with your boss, a heap of laundry, a fight with your family?

By getting specific and pinpointing the stressors in your life, you’re one step closer to getting organized and taking action.

2. Consider what you can control—and work on that.

While you can’t control what your boss does, what your in-laws say or the sour state of the economy, you can control how you react, how you accomplish work, how you spend your time and what you spend your money on.

The worst thing for stress is trying to take control over uncontrollable things. Because when you inevitably fail — since it’s beyond your control — you only get more stressed out and feel helpless. So after you’ve thought through what’s stressing you out, identify the stressors that you can control, and determine the best ways to take action.

Take the example of a work project. If the scope is stressing you out, talk it over with your supervisor or break the project down into step-wise tasks and deadlines.

Stress can be paralyzing. Doing what’s within your power moves you forward and is empowering and invigorating.

3. Do what you love.

It’s so much easier to manage pockets of stress when the rest of your life is filled with activities you love. Even if your job is stress central, you can find one hobby or two that enrich your world. What are you passionate about? If you’re not sure, experiment with a variety of activities to find something that’s especially meaningful and fulfilling.

4. Manage your time well.

One of the biggest stressors for many people is the lack of time. Their to-do list expands while time flies. How often have you wished for more hours in the day or heard others lament their lack of time? But you’ve got more time than you think, as Laura Vanderkam writes in her aptly titled book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think.

We all have the same 168 hours, and yet there are plenty of people who are dedicated parents and full-time employees and who get at least seven hours of sleep a night and lead fulfilling lives.

5. Create a toolbox of techniques.

One stress-shrinking strategy won’t work for all your problems. For instance, while deep breathing is helpful when you’re stuck in traffic or hanging at home, it might not rescue you during a business meeting.

Because stress is complex, “What we need is a toolbox that’s full of techniques that we can fit and choose for the stressor in the present moment,” said Richard Blonna, Ed.D, a nationally certified coach and counselor and author of Stress Less, Live More: How Acceptance & Commitment Therapy Can Help You Live a Busy Yet Balanced Life.

6. Pick off the negotiable tasks from your plate.

Review your daily and weekly activities to see what you can pick off your plate. As Vanderkam asks in her book: “Do your kids really love their extracurricular activities or are they doing them to please you? Are you volunteering for too many causes and so stealing time from the ones where you could make the most impact? Does your whole department really need to meet once per week or have that daily conference call?”

Blonna suggested asking these questions: “Do [my activities] mesh with my goals and values? Am I doing things that give my life meaning? Am I doing the right amount of things?”

Reducing your stack of negotiable tasks can greatly reduce your stress.

7. Are you leaving yourself extra vulnerable to stress?

Whether you perceive something as a stressor depends in part on your current state of mind and body. That is, as Blonna said, “Each transaction we’re involved in takes place in a very specific context that’s affected by our health, sleep, psychoactive substances, whether we’ve had breakfast [that day] and [whether we’re] physically fit.”

So if you’re not getting sufficient sleep or physical activity during the week, you may be leaving yourself extra susceptible to stress. When you’re sleep-deprived, sedentary and filled to the brim with coffee, even the smallest stressors can have a huge impact.

8. Preserve good boundaries.

If you’re a people-pleaser, saying no feels like you’re abandoning someone, have become a terrible person or are throwing all civility out the window. But of course, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Plus, those few seconds of discomfort are well worth avoiding the stress of taking on an extra activity or doing something that doesn’t contribute value to your life.

One thing I’ve noticed about productive, happy people is that they’re very protective of their time and having their boundaries crossed. But not to worry: Building boundaries is a skill you can learn.

9. Realize there’s a difference between worrying and caring.

Sometimes, our mindset can boost stress, so a small issue mushroom into a pile of problems. We continue worrying, somehow thinking that this is a productive — or at least inevitable — response to stress. But we mistake worry for action.

Clinical psychologist Chad LeJeune, Ph.D., talks about the idea of worrying versus caring in his book, The Worry Trap: How to Free Yourself from Worry & Anxiety Using Acceptance & Commitment Therapy. Worrying is an attempt to exert control over the future by thinking about it, whereas caring is taking action. When we are caring for someone or something, we do the things that support or advance the best interests of the person or thing that we care about.

LeJeune uses the simple example of houseplants. He writes: “If you are away from home for a week, you can worry about your houseplants every single day and still return home to find them brown and wilted. Worrying is not watering.”

Similarly, fretting about your finances does nothing but get you worked up (and likely prevent you from taking action). Caring about your finances, however, means creating a budget, paying bills on time, using coupons and reducing how often you dine out.

Just this small shift in mindset from worrying to caring can help you adjust your reaction to stress. To see this distinction between worrying and caring, try this activity where you can list responses for each one. For example:

Worrying about your health involves…

Caring about your health involves…

Worrying about your career involves…

Caring about your career involves…

10. Embrace mistakes—or at least don’t drown in perfectionism.

Another mindset that can exacerbate stress is perfectionism. Trying to be mistake-free and essentially spending your days walking on eggshells is exhausting and anxiety-provoking. Talk about putting pressure on yourself! And as we all know but tend to forget: Perfectionism is impossible and not human, anyway.

As the researcher, Brene Brown writes in her book The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, “Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. Perfectionism is not about healthy achievement and growth and it’s not self-improvement.”

Nothing good can come from perfectionism. Brown writes: “Research shows that perfectionism hampers success. In fact, it’s often the path to depression, anxiety, addiction and life-paralysis [‘all the opportunities we miss because we’re too afraid to put anything out in the world that could be imperfect’].”

Plus, mistake-mistaking can lead to growth. To overcome perfectionism, Brown suggests becoming more compassionate toward yourself. I couldn’t agree more.

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Are Your Friends A Good Influence?

Friendships can benefit you in lifting your self-esteem, encouraging you to live healthier, or even just elevating the quality of your life. Your friends should lift you up and help you to be the best person you can be. Here are a few tips on deciding whether or not your friends are a good influence.

You Feel Good After Spending Time With Them

One way to determine if your friends are having a positive effect on you is to gage your mood after you’ve been with them. Do you leave feeling energized and happy? If so, chances are your friends are a good influence to your mind and body.

By contrast, if you spend an entire day with your friends and feel out-of-sorts or guilty afterwards, your pals may not be as positive as they could be. Your friends don’t necessarily need to encourage you to run marathons or help you brainstorm ideas for the next great American novel, but they do need to give you an all-around good feeling.

Negative Behavior That Can Bring You Down

When deciding whether or not your friends are a good influence, it’s important to look at the overall big picture. Your friends don’t need to be perfect (because none of us are), but they should encourage you. A friend who is a negative influence may want you to:

• Gossip.
• Gamble or spend money you don’t have.
• Make choices that will hurt you or your family.
• Engage in illegal activities.
• Shun your other friends.

For example, your pals should encourage a healthy lifestyle (since it’s something we all should adhere to), but the reality is that you might just splurge on your diet once in a while or skip your exercise class in favor of a movie. It’s not the day-to-day activities you look at when determining if someone is good for you. Rather, it’s the overall effect someone has on your life.

Finding More Positive Friends

Before you look for new friends, take a look at your friend groups to see if there is perhaps one person that encourages the rest of you to be negative. If that’s the case, stand up to them by doing things like: refusing to gossip, bowing out of activities that are dangerous or illegal, and making better choices despite that your friends might encourage you otherwise.

When you do this, pay close attention to see if someone else in the group is influenced by your behavior. Your change may inspire others in the group to resist the negativity as well. Peer pressure like this affects many different friend groups, including adults.

If you do need to find new friends, take it slow and be choosy about whom you spend your time with. If you are desperate for friends, you’ll probably end up with more of the negative types of friends you just left behind. Instead, hold out for positive friends who will encourage you to be yourself. Figure out the things you like to do, and build friendships around those goals and activities. You’ll naturally meet people through hobbies and events you enjoy, and the bonus is that your new friends will probably like doing them as well.

Standing Up to Negative Friends

Sometimes when you leave negative friends behind, they turn the tables and make it your problem. They might hold parties and not invite you, call you up to complain that you’re never around or even spread gossip or lies about you. Be strong with your commitment to live a fuller life that includes more positive friends.

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Want To Get Happy? Detach From These Four Things.

Non-attachment is one of the most important skills you can master.
We easily get attached to things, people, situations, the past and the future.

However, these attachments are never healthy. Clinging onto anything is not a good habit to cultivate, although we all seem to go down that road at some point in our lives.

We often attach ourselves to the things that are making us happy at that moment, trying to hold onto them just so we can experience happiness longer. We worry about the odds of losing the happiness and we think that clinging to it would make it stay. And when things change – as they always do – we feel miserable and betrayed.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we attach ourselves to feelings of happiness and satisfaction, and identify ourselves with them. Because of this, we tend to dwell on the past or feel anxious about the future, failing to experience the joy of the present moment.

Once we stop clinging or trying to control the world around us, we allow the Universe to fulfill us in ways beyond our imagination. Letting go is necessary so we can allow the happiness to flood in.

Releasing attachments is not a one-time decision. It is a moment-to-moment choice and commitment, and it involves changing the way we interact with anyone and anything we used to get attached to in the past.

So how do you release your attachment? Here’s a few tips to set you free.

1) Releasing Attachment From People.

Quit depending on people when it comes to acknowledging your worth. Know your worthiness without needing other people’s approval. Don’t let others dictate how you feel about yourself.

Going alone sometimes is a good way of releasing your attachment from others. This will help you examine yourself as well as your passions and values.

Hold onto people lightly and understand that you, and just you, have the ability to feel loved, worthy and secure.

This can also be applied to romantic relationships. Understand that it takes two whole persons to be together, and you are never someone’s “other half”.

2) Releasing Attachment From The Past.

Whether you like it or not, you can never change what’s already happened – ever.

Holding onto what’s already gone is living your life based on fear. Instead of focusing on what has happened or what didn’t happen, focus on whatever is happening right now. At this very moment.

This is the only moment you have control over – the now. Make peace with your past and realize that whatever happened had to happen, so the you right now can emerge. When you look back, you’ll see that the sequence of events had unfolded perfectly, for your own personal growth.

3) Releasing Attachment From The Future.

You cannot find happiness and contentment in the future, because the only real thing is the present moment – and this is all you’re experiencing right now.

There is no need to know what the future will hold. The only thing you need to realize is that your future is hinged on how you will use the present moment.

4) Releasing Attachment From Feelings And Emotions.

This goes to both positive and negative emotions. Most of us are attached to feelings of happiness and the feelings of regret. We tend to forget that all of these are just passing emotions. Identifying ourselves with our feelings and emotions make us prisoners of our own minds.

To release your mind, notice when you’re overwhelmed with an emotion, and then take a pause. Observe your feelings and take a few deep breaths while telling yourself: “This is just an emotion, it does not define who I am.” You’ll notice the overwhelming feeling melting away.

The practice of releasing attachments may be difficult, but only because we have accepted our attachments as part of our lives, believing it is in accordance with the society.

You can break free from this notion and release whatever is binding you to all these dramas. Not getting attached to anyone or anything is important in order to bring harmony to our relationships with other people and most importantly, with ourselves.

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Seven Reasons To Seek Marriage Counseling

Marriage rates supposedly are on the decline. While it’s an oft-repeated statistic that 50 percent of first marriages end in divorce, that number has remained unchanged for the past 30 years. Divorce rates also vary with the partners’ level of education, religious beliefs, and many other factors.

But when divorce does happen, it results in difficulties for adults as well as children. For adults, divorce can be one of life’s most stressful life events. The decision to divorce often is met with ambivalence and uncertainty about the future. If children are involved, they may experience negative effects such as denial, feelings of abandonment, anger, blame, guilt, preoccupation with reconciliation, and acting out.

While divorce may be necessary and the healthiest choice for some, others may wish to try to salvage whatever is left of the union. When couples encounter problems or issues, they may wonder when it is appropriate to seek marriage counseling. Here are seven good reasons.

1. Communication has become negative. 

Once communication has deteriorated, often it is hard to get it going back in the right direction. Negative communication can include anything that leaves one partner feeling depressed, insecure, disregarded, or wanting to withdraw from the conversation. This can also include the tone of the conversation. It is important to remember that it’s not always what you say, but how you say it.

Negative communication can also include any communication that not only leads to hurt feelings, but emotional or physical abuse, as well as nonverbal communication.

2. When one or both partners consider having an affair, or one partner has had an affair. 

Recovering from an affair is not impossible, but it takes a lot of work. It takes commitment and a willingness to forgive and move forward. There is no magic formula for recovering from an affair. But if both individuals are committed to the therapy process and are being honest, the marriage may be salvaged. At the very least, it may be determined that it is healthier for both individuals to move on.

3. When the couple seems to be “just occupying the same space.” 

When couples become more like roommates than a married couple, this may indicate a need for counseling. This does not mean if the couple isn’t doing everything together they are in trouble. If there is a lack of communication, conversation and intimacy or any other elements the couple feels are important and they feel they just “co-exist,” this may be an indication that a skilled clinician can help sort out what is missing and how to get it back.

4. When the partners do not know how to resolve their differences. 

When a couple begins to experience discord and they are aware of the discord, knowing is only half the battle. Many times I have heard couples say, “We know what’s wrong, but we just don’t know how to fix it.” This is a perfect time to get a third party involved. If a couple is stuck, a skilled clinician may be able to get them moving in the right direction.

5. When one partner begins to act out on negative feelings. 

I believe what we feel on the inside shows on the outside. Even if we are able to mask these feelings for a while, they are bound to surface. Negative feelings such as resentment or disappointment can turn into hurtful, sometimes harmful behaviors. I can recall a couple where the wife was very hurt by her husband’s indiscretions. Although she agreed to stay in the relationship and work things out, she became very spiteful. The wife would purposefully do things to make her husband think she was being unfaithful even though she wasn’t. She wanted her husband to feel the same pain she felt, which was counterproductive. A skilled clinician can help the couple sort out negative feelings and find better ways to express them.

6. When the only resolution appears to be separation

When a couple disagrees or argues, a break often is very helpful. However, when a timeout turns into an overnight stay away from home or eventually leads to a temporary separation, this may indicate a need for counseling. Spending time away from home does not usually resolve the situation. Instead, it reinforces the thought that time away is helpful, often leading to more absences. When the absent partner returns, the problem is still there, but often avoided because time has passed.

7. When a couple is staying together for the sake of the children. 

If a couple feels it is wise to stay together for the sake of the children, it may help to involve an objective third party. Often couples believe that they are doing the right thing when staying together actually is detrimental to the children. On the contrary, if the couple is able to resolve issue and move toward a positive, healthy relationship, this may be the best decision for all involved.

In my opinion, children should never be the deciding factor when couples are determining whether to stay together. I recall working with an adolescent who was having trouble in school. She was acting out and her grades were declining. After a few sessions she stated, “I know my parents really don’t like each other.” When I asked her why, she replied, “They are nice to each other, but they never smile or laugh like my friends’ parents.”

Children are generally very intuitive and intelligent. No matter how couples may think they are able to fake their happiness, most children are able to tell.

All marriages are not salvageable. In the process of marriage counseling, some couples may discover it is healthier for them to be apart. However, for those relationships that can be salvaged, and for those couples willing to commit to the process, marriage counseling may be able to remind them why they fell in love and keep them that way.

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