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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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20 Calming Or Invigorating Mini Meditations You Can Practice Every Day

No matter how hectic or stressful our days are, whether we’re sitting at our desks or waiting in line, we have the opportunity to pause and adjust our perspective.

We have the opportunity to be kinder — both to ourselves and others. We have the opportunity to relax and slow down. And we have the opportunity to refocus. Even if it’s for a minute or two.

In her book Self-Meditation: 3,299 Mantras, Tips, Quotes and Koans for Peace and Serenity, bestselling author Barbara Ann Kipfer offers a wealth of inspiration for practicing kindness and breathing in the beauty of daily moments and the miracles that are our lives.

Here are 20 of my favorite suggestions from her book.

1. Let small chores act as a stop sign to “breathe, relax and experience peace.”

2. Sit down and “become a human still life.” Don’t do anything. Just breathe.

3. When you’re driving, focus solely on that experience. “Feel the steering wheel, the pedals, the seat.”

4. “Listen for the quietest sound.”

5. Focus on your sense of smell. Take something you’d like to smell, such as a flower or food, and put it up close to your nose. Notice the changes in the aroma. Focus on the sensations in your body as you inhale and exhale. Then try to focus on other fragrances around you throughout the day.

6. Focus on your sense of touch. Focus on the sensation of your hands touching each other, “your clothes brushing against your skin, and the air moving across your face.”

7. In the beginning of the week, pick an activity you normally do on autopilot, such as washing your hands, applying makeup or getting into your car. Pause for several seconds before starting the activity. Then perform it with your full attention.

8. “Imagine that you are a kite soaring in the sky. Surrender to the wind, but be aware of the string that anchors you to the ground and keeps you safe.”

9. When you’re performing a chore, focus your full attention on your hands. “Note all the sensations in your fingers, your palms, and your wrists.”

10. Send yourself some loving-kindness (or “meta”). Focus your attention on an aspect of your mind or body that you feel separated from. Acknowledge this. You might say something like: “May I accept this. May I be filled with loving-kindness toward this. May I use the pain of this experience for the welfare of all.”

11. As you’re trying to fall asleep, “imagine that with each breath you are melting into an ocean of light and space.”

12. When you turn on the faucet, focus on the bigger picture. “See the water flowing down from the glaciers and mountains, running deep into the earth, sustaining you and all life.”

13. When you wake up, feel your feet touch the floor. “Be aware of their weight, the floor supporting your body, and the motion of your feet and legs as you begin to walk.”

14. When you get home from work, every day, stand in front of your door and appreciate the moment. Rejoice in it. “Breathe in and out three times.”

15. Set an alarm to ring every hour to remind yourself to “wake up and appreciate the miracle of every moment. Say, ‘[Your name], wake up!”

16. Picture your thoughts as balloons floating by.

17. Visualize a mountain lake with a smooth, glassy surface. A breeze sends ripples across the water. As the breeze quiets down, so do the ripples, and the water returns to being smooth. When something ruffles you, return to this visualization. “Feel the ripples and then let them settle.”

18. Think of your mind as a swinging door. “Thoughts and feelings come in and out, like people. Be the door, not the doorman.”

19. Picture a person or pet you love greatly. Imagine they’re “giving you a look that melts your heart.” Think about the things you love most about them. With each breath you take, let your heart fill with love. “Imagine your two souls connected by the caring you have for each other.”

20. “See yourself as a small child, fragile and vulnerable, and breathe in. Smile with love to this small child within yourself, and breathe out.”

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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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Being Alone & Content To Be Strong Together

Being alone can be painful. It can also be blissful. It all depends on your level of personal development in this area. A joyful state when you’re alone is attainable. And it is a very worthwhile pursuit.

Once you learn how to be alone you will no long be chained to the desperate need to keep a person in your life even though the relationship is bad for you. Whether the person is a lover, a marriage partner, a friend, or even a family member what good is it if the relationship brings you pain and lower self-esteem? If you can’t bare the thought of being alone you will always be in a position of weakness in your relationships. However, once you learn how to be alone and truly enjoy it you’ll be able to negotiate your relationships from a position of strength knowing that you can end it and be okay.

We all experience moments of intense loneliness. We initially experience this when we are left alone for the first time as children. As we develop and grow we learn not to fear being alone. Nevertheless, there times when we face feelings of loneliness. These times can be extremely difficult at first.

Transitions in adulthood can bring on powerful feelings of loneliness. When we break up, get a divorce, or a partner dies we are suddenly alone. Before this event, we grew to rely on their companionship. We knew that during almost every evening, weekend, and holiday we would have someone to share it with. The sad feelings that you experience can be the same when a close friendship ends.

If your break up or divorce was preceded by months of tension, the separation might come as a relief initially. After a few nights and weekends alone, however, the relief can turn into desperation about being alone. It is at this point where profound growth is possible. You can use the pain of the break up and the loneliness to move yourself past the sometimes terrifying feelings of facing the future alone! Once you breakthrough and find your strength, which is present in you right now, you’ll experience a whole new world of personal power and freedom.

In the insightful book “Intimate Connections – The Clinically Proven Method for Making Close Friends and Finding a Loving Partner”, Dr. David Burns talks about the importance of learning how to enjoy being alone. He says that a person ability to have healthy relationship is in direct proportion to their ability to be alone.

If a person is comfortable being alone, they are in a position of power and not neediness in a relationship. People who do not have the ability to be alone will be imprisoned if they find themselves in a toxic relationship. You can break free by learning how to be alone and truly enjoy it.

– Surrender to Your Loneliness.

There is something indescribably sweet about surrendering to your loneliness. On that darkest of nights, when you come face to face with yourself, true self-discovery can occur. The quietness and the realization that you are completely alone in a world full of billions of people can be chilling. But once you embrace it and surrender to your aloofness you will begin to grow right there and then. And your growth can be rapid and profound. With each new experience of being alone you will grow stronger. Eventually you will begin to enjoy your own company without a nagging need to be with another person. Once you reach this point, you’ll have the power to choose whether you want to spend a Saturday night alone, with a friend, or with a love interest. Your ability to choose any of these options without any worries empowers you. Then if you do chose to enter into a relationship, you’ll be able to do it from a position of strength, independence, and confidence.

– How Do You Learn How to Be Alone?

Don’t fight being alone by trying to distract yourself. Don’t distract yourself by scheduling all your free time with friends. Don’t distract yourself with over indulgence of food, alcohol, drugs, television, the Internet, or video games. Just be with your loneliness until you come to terms with it. Face it head on! Deal with the feelings that come up. Stay with the discomfort until you find your way to contentment. If you are frightened, move toward your fears until they dissipate. As it is with most fears, you’ll most likely find that what you feared was only an illusion or a misunderstanding.

– Embrace Being Alone.

Embrace being alone by using these periods to get to know yourself on a deeper level. Perhaps on a deeper level than you have in your entire life. You can’t do this by spending a few hours alone. You need much more time. Several weekends or even an entire week’s vacation would provide a great start toward mastery of being alone.

Once you can spend a Saturday night, a weekend, or an entire vacation alone and truly enjoy it, you’ve mastered yourself. You teach yourself how to enjoy your own company by treating yourself like you would a close friend or lover. You look for ways to enjoy, entertain, and please yourself. And yes, I mean the big “M.” There are benefits to learning this art as well, especially for women. Men don’t need any coaxing in this area.

Whenever I refer to the benefits of learning to be alone, I am not only talking about you but also the benefits that your lovers and friends will enjoy. These relationships will benefit because you will be able to participate in them from a position of strength and giving rather than weakness and neediness. If you can’t bare even the thought of being alone you’ll put unhealthy demands on these relationships. You will also sell yourself short because of your inability to enter and maintain these relationships from a position of strength and confidence.

Use periods of being alone to get to know yourself. What do you like to do on a Saturday night? Take yourself out to a fancy dinner. Make yourself a gourmet dinner at home. Have fun! Enjoy your own company. Enjoy your own humor. Laugh at yourself. Do you get the picture?

If you don’t know what you find humorous when no one else is present, find out! If you don’t know what you enjoy to do by yourself, discover it! Make it an adventure! Make it an adventure of self-discovery!

Your goal is to find peace, contentment, and confidence when you are alone whether you are at home, in crowded public space, or at table in a fine restaurant filled with couples on a Saturday night! Once you are comfortable, content, and happy in each of these situations you have mastered the art of being alone. Once this is achieved and you are able to “choose” whether you want to be in a relationship or with other people, your ability to truly love and give without fear or measure will be greatly enhanced.

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