How to practice forgiveness for a healthier and happier holiday season

Updated: May 15, 2018

Methods to improve your emotional health and time with family and friends

During the holiday season, as we reunite with family, friends, and loved ones, it may be difficult to face unresolved relationship struggles, or be with those with whom we may not always see eye to eye. Social gatherings can create an awkward proximity to those who have caused us discomfort or pain, leaving us tense or frustrated and wanting to disengage.

Instead of sitting this one out, this could be a chance for you to ‘sit-in’ with yourself for a moment to come to terms with the difficult situations that you have endured, with the intention to transform your feelings of disharmony into tenacity and strength. A method to do this is the practice of forgiveness.

Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital  states, “There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed.” Johns Hopkins Medicine further describes that, “Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and an immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.”

We don’t need to forget, but we can choose to forgive. We can feel anger, sadness, hurt and pain, and then we can decide if we want to forgive. It’s our choice and it’s one of the greatest choices we have. Celebrated author, Don Miguel Ruiz of The Four Agreements, writes, “Forgiveness is for your own mental healing. You forgive because you feel compassion for yourself. Forgiveness is an act of self-love.”

Transforming how we feel about the past can change how we frame our future. It can give us the opportunity to make room to heal, reconcile, or foster new, trusting relationships with others. Forgiveness can help us step out of our story, step back into our power, and free ourselves from shame, bitterness, resentment and hurt.

The health benefits of forgiveness

The Mayo Clinic suggests that, “Forgiveness, can lead to healthier relationships, improved mental health, less stress and reduced hostility.” The dilemmas that cau