How forgiveness improves mental well-being
ALL of us have experienced situations where we need to forgive or to be forgiven.
This is not an easy task at all and it has never been meant to be. Forgiveness is hard to give or get at times. In my day to day practice of psychotherapy, individuals and couples struggle to receive or offer forgiveness, yet it is one part of human interaction that we all need. At some point in life everyone makes mistakes, and we all want forgiveness.
When someone hurts you, you tend to carry thoughts or feelings of resentment, anger, and hatred and these can slowly cause debilitating energies that will dis-empower you if you continue to let these thoughts occupy space in your life.
If you could release them, you would be healthier. Hard as it is, it is possible and very healthy to forgive or to be forgiven. Unforgiveness affects mental, physical and spiritual health. Studies on forgiveness have shown that people who forgive are more likely than the general population to expe- rience fewer episodes of depression, high blood pressure, fewer stress-related health issues, better immune system function and lower rates of heart disease.
What does this mean to us as human beings? It means that forgiveness protects against stress and illnesses.
Research studies have found that, not only is forgiveness helpful spiritually, but it is also helpful in total well-being and wellness.
The act of forgiveness can reap huge rewards to holistic well-being. Forgiveness enables lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; reducing pain, blood pressure, and levels of anxiety, depression and stress to mention just a few.
There are two forms of forgiveness; forgiving yourself and forgiving others. Have you ever made a mistake you thought was so bad that you simply couldn’t forgive yourself?
You need to forgive yourself and learn to do things differently and not repeat same mistakes.
According to studies, being forgiving to yourself and others can protect you against stress and the toll it takes on mental health (Journal of Health Psychology).So how can I forgive and how many times. Not an easy answer, but this is the focus of this paper.
How many times? When Peter in the Bible came up and said to Jesus: “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him: “I do not say to you seven times, but 70x7. 70x7, hwau, this just means that so long as forgiveness shall be needed and sought: you are never to come to the point of refusing forgiveness sincerely asked.
We are not to limit our forgiveness to any fixed number of times. It is sad to note that anguish and brokenness worldwide, in our communities and families have been caused by unforgiveness, lack of love and mercy. It has been caused by limiting forgiveness and holding on to hatred. So, what is the way forward then?
Forgive yourself - Accept that failure that does not make you a bad person. When something is not helpful, change, do things differently and transform your thoughts and actions.
Forgive others - Remember, whether it’s a simple quarrel with your spouse or long-held resentment toward a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can go deeper and can be as destructive than you may ever realize. So, forgive.
Forgiveness is more than letting go or moving on. It goes further to offering something positive, empathy, compassion, under- standing toward the person who hurt you. It means being honest and accepting your feelings.
Accept request for forgivenessHave you struggled with forgiving someone? Does forgiveness mean you forget someone’s terrible acts? Does it mean you ignore the person who has harmed you in the hopes that the wrongdoing will simply vanish? No, not all, “forgiving isn’t forgetting”. You will remember and you still need to accept requests for forgiveness.
As to how we can do this, please check it out in the next Manica Post issue as I continue with the practical ways of forgiving oneself and forgiving others. But today just know that forgiveness makes you happier and healthier. Holding on to grudges harms your health and can act as a chronic stressor. Unforgiveness can make you more vulnerable to diseases and take attention away from maintaining your health and happiness in the present.
◆ Dr. Mazvita Machinga, Ph.D is a qualified psychotherapist and mental health consultant based in Mutare. For professional counseling and psychotherapy please call 0771 754 519 or Office 0778 83 84 10 email firstname.lastname@example.org