Forgiveness - What’s Holding You Back?
The more you read and learn about the power of gratitude on both body and mind, the more amazed you will be about how much it can do for you. Let’s take a look at how forgiveness can free us from the things that are holding us back. More importantly, let’s dive a little deeper and into the mind body connection of practicing (or not practicing) forgiveness. We’ll wrap things up with a surprising notion that you can’t afford to miss.
Think back on the last time you held a grudge. What did that feel like? Did you have a pit in your stomach? Did you have trouble sleeping? Were you distracted from other, more important things? What did you lose because you chose to stay angry at the other person? Holding a grudge isn’t good for you. Not only that, but the person you’re holding the grudge against probably doesn’t even remember what they did. They are not suffering because you’re upset. You are. You’re holding on to all that negativity and it’s solely poisoning you. And it doesn’t stop at destroying your mental health. All this anger and resentment can and will make you physically sick. Your blood pressure goes up; your immune response goes down. You’re not sleeping well which has other health implications. And let’s not even talk about all the junk food you’re eating while in this state of stress.
Don’t let holding a grudge make you sick. Instead, focus on forgiveness and gratitude. Take a deep breath and find it in your heart to forgive the other person. It’s not easy, but it is within your power. Be the better person. Take the higher road. Do it for yourself because you know you will instantly feel better and it will do wonders for your mental and physical health and wellbeing.
I hinted at the fact that there’s something surprising about forgiveness earlier. I’m sure you’re eager to know what that’s about and why it’s something you need to know. It’s the idea that forgiveness isn’t really about the person you are forgiving. Sure, there are times when they appreciate or even demand your forgiveness. But even so, the person benefiting the most is you. That’s right. Forgiveness isn’t for the other person. It’s what sets you free and allows you to pursue happiness and be fulfilled in your own life.
To recap, forgiving the other person benefits you. It improves your mental wellbeing and your physical health. It makes you sleep better at night and have a good outlook on life. Don’t let that old grudge steal your happiness. Practice forgiveness and feel gratitude that you have it in your power to decide if you let any slight hold you back or not.
Gratitude - It’s All About Choices
How you feel - how happy you are, how stressed you are, even how well you sleep - may seem like it’s out of your hand, but it is actually a choice you make. You can choose to be grateful for what you have and happiness follows. Or you can choose to focus on what you’re lacking, who has wronged you, and what’s not going your way. And guess what? You’ll feel miserable. You may blame others, circumstances, or fate for your unhappiness. But at the end of the day it’s all about you and the choices you make. You choose happiness or misery.
How can you make sure you make the right choices throughout life? One of the simplest ways to ensure you live a happy and fulfilled life is to focus on gratitude. Of course that’s easier said than done. You get upset when your friend stands you up for coffee and that’s okay. How you choose to move forward from here is what will make the difference. You can choose to dwell on the slight you think your friend gave you. The more you think about it, the angrier you get. Instead of having coffee at that new spot you were looking forward to trying, you get back into your car, drive home and let it ruin your day. That’s a choice. Now let’s look at a different one.
Same scenario. Your friend stands you up. You’re disappointed and maybe even a little mad. You take a deep breath, let those negative feelings go and make a choice based on gratitude. What can you find in this situation that you can be grateful for? Maybe you’ve been wishing for some quiet alone time so you can hear yourself think. Maybe there’s a store you’ve wanted to check out or a movie you’ve wanted to see for a while and this is the time to do it. Maybe there’s an old friend you’ve been meaning to visit. Or maybe you’ll simply enjoy a good cup of coffee by yourself and grab some takeout for your spouse on the way home.
Instead of heading home angry, you’re going home grateful for these few special hours you carved out for yourself. And who knows. Maybe you talk to your friend later that evening and find out that they had a family emergency that caused them to miss coffee. How guilty would you feel then about the anger you let yourself feel towards them? And how guilty would they feel for having ruined your day? Instead, focusing on gratitude and making the best of the situation, you created happiness for yourself. If you ask me, that’s some sort of super power.
The Mental and Physical Connection of Gratitude
Gratitude is a powerful thing and we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to discovering the various mental and physical effects it has on us. Let’s look at a few of those to give you an idea of what you can expect if you start to make feeling gratitude a daily focus.
The Mental Benefits Of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude helps your overall mental health because you instantly have a better outlook on life. Don’t be surprised to walk away from your latest gratitude meditation with a big smile on your face. Of course the benefits don’t stop at increased happiness. Feeling more gratitude has been linked to a better self-image, less anxiety and even a reduction of depression. This comes as no surprise to scientists who have recorded increased levels of dopamine and serotonin after intentional gratitude meditations.
The Physical Benefits Of Gratitude
This is where it gets interesting. It's one thing to feel better emotionally, but the release of these “feel-good” hormones affects your physical body as well. Gratitude reduces stress and with it, you’re sleeping better, your blood pressure lowers, and you have more energy. As a result, you move more, leading to even better overall physical health. Maybe your gratitude exercise motivates you to go out for a walk, getting more oxygen into your body and loading up on Vitamin D. Being able to sleep soundly reduces appetite and less stress helps you make smarter food choices. All these things work hand in hand to turn you into a healthier and stronger version of yourself.
Gratitude is particularly important for heart health. Between the lower blood pressure and reduced stress, you are putting less strain on your heart. The added exercise and sleep strengthen your heart muscle and give this most important organ time to recover and heal overnight. With heart disease one of the leading causes of death in modern society, there’s never been a better time to practice gratitude and let go of stress.
How can you tap into both the mental and physical benefits of gratitude? By feeling more of it. Of course that’s easier said than done. A great place to start is by creating a habit of thinking of at least one person or one thing you are deeply grateful for each morning as soon as you wake up. It sets the tone for the whole day and gets you off to a great start to reap these powerful benefits. Give it a try!
How to Practice Mindfulness
Becoming more aware of where you are and what you’re doing, without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you.
Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.
Yet no matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling. If you want to know what mindfulness is, it’s best to try it for a while. Since it’s hard to nail down in words, you will find slight variations in the meaning in books, websites, audio, and video.
The Definition of Mindfulness
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness is a natural quality that we all have. It’s available to us in every moment if we take the time to appreciate it. When we practice mindfulness, we’re practicing the art of creating space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Practice:
When we meditate it doesn’t help to fixate on the benefits, but rather to just do the practice, and yet there are benefits or no one would do it.
When we’re mindful, we reduce stress, enhance performance, gain insight and awareness through observing our own mind, and increase our attention to others’ well-being.
Mindfulness meditation gives us a time in our lives when we can suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness—to ourselves and others.
8 Facts About Mindfulness:
What You Need to Know Before Practicing Mindfulness:
The Types of Mindfulness Practice
While mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques. Here are some examples:
How to Practice Mindfulness
While mindfulness might seem simple, it’s not necessarily all that easy. The real work is to make time every day to just keep doing it. Here’s a short practice to get you started:
That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
What is Meditation? How do you learn to meditate? In mindfulness meditation, we’re learning how to pay attention to the breath as it goes in and out, and notice when the mind wanders from this task. This practice of returning to the breath builds the muscles of attention and mindfulness.
When we pay attention to our breath, we are learning how to return to, and remain in, the present moment—to anchor ourselves in the here and now on purpose, without judgement.
The idea behind mindfulness seems simple—the practice takes patience.
Why Learn to Meditate?
While meditation isn’t a cure-all, it can certainly provide some much-needed space in your life. Sometimes, that’s all we need to make better choices for ourselves, our families, and our communities. And the most important tools you can bring with you to your meditation practice are a little patience, some kindness for yourself, and a comfortable place to sit.
When we meditate, we inject far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives. And bonus: you don’t need any extra gear or an expensive membership.
Here are five reasons to meditate:
How to MeditateMeditation is simpler (and harder) than most people think. Read these steps, make sure you’re somewhere where you can relax into this process, set a timer, and give it a shot:
1) Take a seat
Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
2) Set a time limit
If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
3) Notice your body
You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position you can stay in for a while.
4) Feel your breath
Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes in and as it goes out.
5) Notice when your mind has wandered
Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing that your mind has wandered—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
6) Be kind to your wandering mind
Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
7) Close with kindness
When you’re ready, gently lift your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a moment and notice any sounds in the environment. Notice how your body feels right now. Notice your thoughts and emotions.
That’s it! That’s the practice. You go away, you come back, and you try to do it as kindly as possible.
How Much Should I Meditate?
Meditation is no more complicated than what we’ve described above. It is that simple … and that challenging. It’s also powerful and worth it. The key is to commit to sit every day, even if it’s for five minutes. Meditation teacher Sharon Salzberg says: “One of my meditation teachers said that the most important moment in your meditation practice is the moment you sit down to do it. Because right then you’re saying to yourself that you believe in change, you believe in caring for yourself, and you’re making it real. You’re not just holding some value like mindfulness or compassion in the abstract, but really making it real.”
Meditation Tips and Techniques
We’ve gone over the basic breath meditation so far, but there are other mindfulness techniques that use different focal points than the breath to anchor our attention—external objects like a sound in the room, or something broader, such as noticing spontaneous things that come into your awareness during an aimless wandering practice. But all of these practices have one thing in common: We notice that our minds ARE running the show a lot of the time. It’s true. We think thoughts, typically, and then we act. But here are some helpful strategies to change that up:
How to Make Mindfulness a Habit
It’s estimated that 95%of our behavior runs on autopilot. That’s because neural networks underlie all of our habits, reducing our millions of sensory inputs per second into manageable shortcuts so we can function in this crazy world. These default brain signals are so efficient that they often cause us to relapse into old behaviors before we remember what we meant to do instead.
Mindfulness is the exact opposite of these default processes. It’s executive control rather than autopilot, and enables intentional actions, willpower, and decisions. But that takes practice. The more we activate the intentional brain, the stronger it gets. Every time we do something deliberate and new, we stimulate neuroplasticity, activating our grey matter, which is full of newly sprouted neurons that have not yet been groomed for “autopilot” brain.
But here’s the problem. While our intentional brain knows what is best for us, our autopilot brain causes us to shortcut our way through life. So how can we trigger ourselves to be mindful when we need it most? This is where the notion of “behavior design” comes in. It’s a way to put your intentional brain in the driver’s seat. There are two ways to do that—first, slowing down the autopilot brain by putting obstacles in its way, and second, removing obstacles in the path of the intentional brain, so it can gain control.
Shifting the balance to give your intentional brain more power takes some work, though. Here are some ways to get started.
Put meditation reminders around you.
If you intend to do some yoga or to meditate, put your yoga mat or your meditation cushion in the middle of your floor so you can’t miss it as you walk by.
Refresh your reminders regularly.
Say you decide to use sticky notes to remind yourself of a new intention. That might work for about a week, but then your autopilot brain and old habits take over again. Try writing new notes to yourself; add variety or make them funny. That way they’ll stick with you longer.
Create new patterns.
You could try a series of “If this, then that” messages to create easy reminders to shift into the intentional brain. For instance, you might come up with, “If office door, then deep breath,” as a way to shift into mindfulness as you are about to start your workday. Or, “If phone rings, take a breath before answering.” Each intentional action to shift into mindfulness will strengthen your intentional brain.
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