Freeing Yourself, Moving On, Marching Forward

happy-woman-freedom“As I began to love myself, I freed myself of anything that is no good for my health—food, people, things, situations, and everything that drew me down and away from myself. At first, I called this attitude a healthy egoism. Today, I know it is ‘LOVE OF ONESELF’” – Charlie Chaplin. I learned this lesson the hard way after ending a 14-year marriage to a man. I changed myself in order to support his career goals and ambitions. In addition to moving from state to state every few years, everything from my friends, the way I laughed, what time I went to sleep, how I dressed, and my career changed for a man who only cared about himself. That is why I am grateful to all of the actors, actresses and factors that helped me end a relationship that was no good for my health. They helped me free myself, move on, march forward and forgive—and, in doing so, I embraced peace, hope, gratitude, joy and health.

Forgiveness has more of an impact on your life than you may think.

Reduced Stress and Anxiety Anger releases the same hormones—adrenaline and cortisol—that are experienced during a “fight or flight” situation. While having muscle tension, increase in blood pressure, and sweaty pores are all natural, primal responses to predators, if this reaction is re-lived over and over again, it can cause anxiety and depression. Not surprisingly, studies have also shown that letting go of a grudge lowers the risk of alcohol and substance abuse.

Better Heart Health Finding forgiveness within benefits your heart. Studies have shown that forgiving someone decreases your blood pressure and heart rate and, subsequently, decreases the amount of work that your heart must perform. In fact, chronic stress makes platelets “sticky.” This means they are more likely to clot or bunch together and block off blood flow to your heart or brain, which can result in a heart attack or stroke.

Reduced Pain Studies have also shown that forgiveness can decrease the level of pain in people who suffer from chronic back pain. While the mechanism is not clear, this opens up alternative avenues for treatment. It could lift the weight off of your aching back.

The problem is that, “Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea until they have something to forgive,” according to C.S. Lewis. Additionally, there is no manual to help you maneuver through it. Experts in the field have some helpful recommendations:

• Commit to let it go. Forgiveness is an active process, not something that will just happen. • You have the right to choose. You cannot control others’ actions or thoughts, but you can control yours. You can choose to stop re-living the pain and move on. And, most of the time, you are the only one suffering; the offender is fine and living his or her life. • Learn from the past, live in the present, and believe in the future. It is no longer happening, except in your mind. When you start thinking about the past, acknowledge it, and return to the present. • Welcome peace. Whether it is meditation, therapy, prayer, deep breathing or exercising, these actions help clear your mind and allow peace to enter. • Empathize and feel compassion. Trying to see things from the offender’s point of view can help you understand the situation better and feel compassion for that person. You are not excusing or condoning the actions, but you are allowing yourself to be happy and move on. Let love for others, and, more importantly, yourself, grow in your heart.

A grudge functions much like cancer—if you don’t remove it with clear margins, it will grow and fester within you. And, while you may be in the process of forgiving and letting go of the negativity, remember: “Never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it.”– George Bernard Shaw