If you haven’t come across forgiveness and gratitude therapy before now, it might sound like an esoteric concept however it has been used for thousands of years across many religions. While it is tightly tied to spiritual practices, feelings of gratitude and continuously forgiving self and others can bring us some wonderful physical health benefits too.
This therapy helps us actualise what we have in our lives and direct our focus to these as opposed to focusing on the all-consuming negatives which, in turn, stimulates the stress response. A negative focus results in a cascade of activity by neurotransmitters and stress hormones and eventually leads to worsening of many health conditions. As naturopaths, we rarely have a case that does not have some component of stress to it.
Forgiveness and gratitude therapy can be a great alternative for people who find meditation difficult. You can achieve some amazing stress relieving benefits with this remedy in a short amount of time.
F O R G I V E N E S S
noun 1. the act of forgiving.
What is forgiveness?
To forgive, we must release or let go of negative effects, beliefs or behaviours towards an offender, whether that is yourself or another.
Forgiveness is not about condoning an unkindness, forgetting a hurt or excusing poor behaviour, nor is it about denying or minimising your hurt. These are all valid feelings you might experience. However, the idea in this practice is to encourage and experience greater feelings of peace, power, responsibility, awareness and self-control – feelings which are positive and beneficial to your health. It is about choosing helpful feelings.
At times, forgiveness can feel like submitting but a good way to think of it is that you are letting go of the negative rumination that is causing you hurt and, in turn, poor health.
G R A T I T U D E
noun 1. the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is feeling a sense of joy and appreciation of someone or something external to ourselves. It is being grateful for what we have and involves acknowledging good things that happen to us and bringing our mind to beneficial elements as well as recognising the source of our gratitude. Feeling strong positive emotions is key to receiving the health benefits from a gratitude practice.
Kismet Health Calm Bath Soak
How do we incorporate forgiveness and gratitude into our lives?
Daily journaling is the best way to get in your dose of gratitude. Use any type of journal that you like. Begin by writing three things you are grateful for. Don’t overthink it; it can be anything from your family to the sound of the birds in the garden. (A good idea is to steer away from material items as these are not as constant.) The more you follow this practice, the easier it will become and the more you will realise there is to be grateful for. End this by sitting into the feeling to really supercharge the health benefits.
Forgiveness can be a little more difficult. It can be done internally or also undertaken on paper if you prefer. Start by define who and what you would like to forgive and then remember the hurtful event. Empathise with the offender and acknowledge the wrongdoings by self or others. (Note: if working on forgiving yourself, it is good to and see the event from another’s perspective.) Next, commitment to forgive, ensuring you are solidifying the practice by internally or verbally saying you commit to forgive.
Feel free to perform both practices at the same time. However, when a thought of an event strikes, it is possible to undertake the forgiveness practice internally at that moment.
Healthy coping mechanisms
Many of us have unhealthy coping mechanisms which lead us towards a spiral of bad habits. Forgiveness and gratitude have been found time and time again to be associated with good health habits and resilience. When you are next feeling down, take just five minutes before you slouch on the couch and binge watch Netflix to spend writing down some things you are grateful for and one thing you would like to forgive.
What are the health benefits?
Forgiveness and gratitude therapy is gaining popularity due to the significant benefits which result from the practice.
- Life satisfaction
- Lower levels of depression and anxiety
- Builds resilience and will
- Reduces stress – a big factor in many condition outcomes
- Reduces blood pressure
- Lowers inflammation
- Reduces fatigue
- Beneficial for symptoms of fibromyalgia
- Enhanced quality of life for individuals with serious health conditions i.e. arthritis, cancer
- Promotes other healthy habits
Boost your wellbeing and happiness – starting today – and see and acknowledge all the wonderful positive things already around you.
If you would like to work with one of our naturopaths and learn techniques like this and more, please feel free to book an appointment to discuss your individual circumstances.
Written by Ally Stuart BHSc