These days, there is a growing movement for taking proactive and preventative steps towards better physical health. For example, supplements, a better diet, and exercising are about taking care of your body so things like sickness and disease are less likely to impact you.
But what options are out there for emotional health? How can we better equip our minds in a healthy way to prepare for those days when life hits hard? Some would say that meditation, taking “me time,” reading, personal development, vacations, etc. are great for relieving stress and improving emotional health.
There’s one option that unfortunately gets left out of this equation, and it’s one of the most powerful for tackling emotional distress.
Or more accurately, a forgiving attitude, spirit, or disposition.
Most of us understand forgiveness to look like this: someone has done something wrong against you and you choose to forgive them and let the offense go whether they deserve that forgiveness or not.
However, forgiveness goes much deeper. There are actually two types of forgiveness—decisional forgiveness and emotional forgiveness. Decisional forgiveness is the one we are all the most familiar with. However, emotional forgiveness is a process in which the goal is to replace the negative unforgiving emotions with positive ones as a permanent psychological change. The difference between these two types of forgiveness is best summarized in this way:
“Decisional forgiveness is a behavioral intention to resist an unforgiving stance and to respond differently toward a transgressor. Emotional forgiveness is the replacement of negative unforgiving emotions with positive other-oriented emotions. Emotional forgiveness involves psychophysiological changes, and it has more direct health and well-being consequences.”Science Says that Forgiveness is the Path to a Healthy Body, Chardynne Joy H. Concio, May 30, 2019, The Science Times
In other words, there’s forgiveness that is a behavioral, an external expression, and then there’s forgiveness that is an internal process of rewriting the emotions towards a person or situation that initially caused a negative experience.
At The Forgiveness Link, we call this process Reframing, the 3rd step in our Group Forgiveness Coaching program. We know that true, deep-level forgiveness, or emotional forgiveness, is a process. A lifestyle skill that, when applied daily, begins positively affecting your emotional health much like a healthier diet or regular exercise positively affects your physical health.
Forgiveness results in emotional resiliency unlike any other emotional health habit out there. It allows you to “roll with the punches” and quickly find peace, clarity, and joy. How would it feel to stop yelling at your kids every time they did something that drove you crazy? What would your marriage look like if you and your spouse could calmly discuss your disagreements? How would it feel to remain confident in yourself despite the actions of your coworker who continues to put you down?
When you realize Forgiveness is a daily habit as necessary as staying hydrated, your relationships, work environment, and self-image will suddenly improve in ways you never thought possible before. And it’s a lifelong skill we are passionate about teaching. If you’d like to learn more, check out our Group Forgiveness Coaching program.
Can you think of a time where forgiveness would have helped improve your emotional health? Share your thoughts in the comments!
“Science Says that Forgiveness is the Path to a Healthy Body,” Chardynne Joy H. Concio, May 30, 2019, The Science Times https://www.sciencetimes.com/articles/22234/20190530/science-says-that-forgiveness-is-the-path-to-a-healthy-body.htm?fbclid=IwAR3f9VkDfD7ktOf2-B9Ld9lFrfyJLeZPBRz5rCW4zAzqo5lOYX0y1Yg0uKs
“Effects of lifetime stress exposure on mental and physical health in young adulthood: How stress degrades and forgiveness protects health.” Loren Toussaint, Grant S Shields, Gabriel Dorn, and George M Slavich, US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 2014 Aug 19 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4363296/