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Tag: Stress

How Forgiving Reduces Your Stress

Has someone ever wronged you, causing you to hold a grudge for weeks, months, or years? It’s understandable in many circumstances, especially when someone’s done something particularly harmful or life-altering to you.

Thinking about revenge might make you feel a little better in the short term. But ultimately, forgiveness leads to less stress and a greater inner peace for you.

How to Go About Forgiving

Achieving forgiveness can be easier in some circumstances than others. A small slight or insult might be pretty easy to forgive, especially if the transgressor is a good friend or family member.

When someone does something more harmful to you, it can be tough to reach a state of forgiveness.

Here are some things you can do to help get you there:

  • Think about the factors in the other person’s life that might have contributed to them acting, saying, or doing something hurtful to you. Almost always, the person who wronged you has been similarly hurt or otherwise taught the behavior. Alternatively, they could have acted out of jealousy or self-defense.
  • While you are thinking about what might have contributed to the other person’s actions, give some thought to the factors that are contributing to you taking offense or being upset by it. Of course, in some situations, there’s no other way for you to react, but for minor things, factors within yourself might be causing the issue to be more significant in your mind than it needs to be.
  • Try not to dwell on the transgression. When you allow yourself to do so, it can become more significant in your mind and result in even more hurt. That makes it harder to forgive.
  • Give up the notion of being right. There are always more than two sides to every story. Embrace your life’s experience for what it is – a series of events that help you learn and grow. Choose to let go of things that are holding you back from that learning and growing and embrace the peace that comes with doing so.

How to Forgive Yourself

When we are talking about forgiveness, it’s important to acknowledge that sometimes we all need to forgive ourselves for certain things. We can hold grudges against ourselves for a huge variety of issues, like missing opportunities, wronging other people, not saying the right things, or having specific personality characteristics we wish we didn’t have.

It’s as important to forgive yourself for these things as it is to forgive others for their transgressions against you. You can use the same steps listed above to forgive yourself.

A good behavioral therapist can help you both with forgiving others and with forgiving yourself. When you do so, you’ll experience more peace and less stress.

Start with Small Things

If you’re new to the business of forgiving and you have a lot of work to do on that front, start small and work your way up to large events in your life that you’re holding grudges about. Little things are easier to work through, so you’ll be able to achieve forgiveness faster. Not only that, but you’ll also be able to experience the stress-relief of these small forgivenesses, and that will help you continue on to bigger and more significant items on your list.

Try to Project Love

As you move forward in life after you’ve forgiven the things in your past that you’ve been holding onto, try to do so from a position of love and non-judgment. Remember that, the vast majority of the time, the way people act toward you has much more to do with their issues than it has to do with you.

Try not to take offense to things people say and do, but instead, focus on loving those around you and giving them room to make mistakes. Not only will that be a less stressful way for you to live, but it will also be an example for others to follow.

Strengths for Stress

Words can empower, build people up, and cause personal transformation. And words can destroy, subtly or overtly crush people, and cause deep pain.

Today, I turn to two-word phrases that are empowering. These three phrases are the core parts of three of your character strengths.


When the wildly popular poet Mary Oliver was asked “What is spirituality?” she had this to say (paraphrasing): It’s when we go about our day and to each person we meet and to each thing we encounter, we say, “Thank you, thank you.”

What would happen if you used your strength of gratitude in this way? Could you say that (and mean it) to your colleague who is disagreeing with you? To your child who is screaming his head off? To your neighbor who is complaining to you about your lawn? Could you say a heartfelt “thank you” to the trees you pass by as you walk, the squirrel galloping by, and the piece of trash floating in the wind?


Forgiveness, at its core, is about letting go. It’s the opposite of clinging, holding closely to your grudges or harboring anger from misgivings of the past. Let’s turn to the wisdom of a child named Ian, who was interviewed about how he handles problems in school. He shares how he turns to his forgiveness strength at difficult times and uses the phrase, “It’s OK, it’s OK,” when someone wrongs him.

What do you need to say, “It’s OK” to? Can you say it (and mean it) to someone who apologizes to you after they hurt you? Can you say, “It’s OK, it’s OK,” to yourself when you feel anger or sadness welling up inside you, allowing the feeling to just be there? What about when you feel the world seems unfair and filled with nothing but hardship?


At its core, your character strength of curiosity is about exploration. To be curious about something is to intend to gather more information, to build new ideas, to gravitate to a new experience. Our attention becomes captivated in the moment, and we open ourselves to learning and experiencing the newness. Our mind is fresh and ready, and we feel refreshed.

You can prompt yourself to your curious mind with a response of “That’s interesting, that’s interesting.” Mental health professionals say this all the time to clients to show interest and to encourage the client to share more. We use this phrase in our conversation with a friend out getting a drink, in our friendly debates with someone who offers a different point of view, and when someone shares something surprising or insightful with us. “Hmmm, that’s interesting,” we say.

What would it be like to go about your day with this phrase in mind? Might you say it to yourself when you are struggling with a work project? When you feel stressed out in your relationship? When you are sitting in traffic? What positive action might this curiosity prompt?

Taking Action

These three character strengths – gratitude, forgiveness, and curiosity – have hundreds of scientific studies supporting their existence, uses, and benefits. Pick one strength.

If you were to focus on one of these strengths – using a phrase above – two things would be very likely:

1. You’d feel a boost to your personal well-being.

2. You’d be making others feel better, more empowered, or more connected to you.

So, what do you have to lose? Pick one of these strengths, use the phrase as much as you can (verbally or nonverbally) as you go about your day interacting with others and connecting with the larger world . . . and reap the benefits!

I offer you two day forgiveness course in Cape Town, Johannesburg, New York, London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ontario, ‎Dublin and Auckland.