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The Science Behind Letting Sh*t Go, and learning to forgive.

Letting go of pain, anger, jealousy, frustration, or whatever other unsavory emotions that one may have towards a person or situation can be tough. The ego is not a fan of letting things slide.

But wounds can run deeper than just egoic reactions. Somebody may have hurt you quite deeply, whether it be physical, emotionally, sexually, or otherwise. These wounds can take longer to heal, and that’s okay.  

Some situations that may be challenging to let go of can include:

  • Hearing that someone said something negative about you or a loved one,
  • Somebody cut you off while you were driving
  • A friend forgot your birthday
  • Making the mistake of reading the comment thread on a Facebook post, and everything you read was absolutely infuriating.

These are all things that suck, but they don’t have to ruin your day. Letting these little things roll off our back can be tough, but with some practice, it is entirely possible, and beneficial to your overall well-being.

While it certainly can be tough to let go of someone, or let go of the past, or avoid an altercation when triggered, it is possible.

Rest assured that you are completely capable of letting shit go, and you really should give it a shot- for your own wellbeing.

Studies and Research

Studies done surrounding the topic of forgiveness and letting go have repeatedly shown the benefits of letting go, and the risks of not.

A study done at the Department of Psychology and Social Behavior at the University of California in Irvine, CA followed 1155 participants nationwide. Participants were questioned about their daily stressors and affect for 8 consecutive days. Studies showed that people tended to harbor a higher level of negativity the day after a stressor occurs. Almost 10 years later, the participants answered questions related to their physical health. Lingering negative vibes corresponded with a greater number of chronic conditions and deteriorating functional limitations, just 10 short years later. This study suggests that emotional resiliency and the ability to chill out when facing daily stressors have unique importance for long-term physical health.

A John Hopkins Publication in which Psychiatrist, Karen Swartz, M.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences discussed how letting go of grudges is good for your health. The following response from Dr. Swartz explains some consequences of holding onto anger:

“If someone is stuck in an angry state, what they’re essentially doing is being in a state of adrenaline. And some of the negative health consequences of not forgiving or being stuck there are high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, not having a good immune response. You’re constantly putting your energy somewhere else.”

Learning to Forgive

Dr. Swartz goes on to supply the following tips on Learning to Forgive
“Forgiveness training is a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques, but the goal is the same: Identify the problem, give it time and get objective input. That input doesn’t have to come from a mental health professional. It could come from a close friend or a religious adviser.
•    Identify what the problems are.
•    Work on relaxation techniques.
•    Challenge your own responses.
•    Change your thoughts from negative to positive.”

“Forgiveness can be challenging, especially if the person who's hurt you doesn't admit wrong"

A publication titled- Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness from mayoclinic.org discusses letting go at length. One helpful highlight addresses what happens if you find yourself struggling to forgive someone:

If you find yourself stuck:

  • Practice empathy. Try seeing the situation from the other person’s point of view.
  • Ask yourself why he or she would behave in such a way. Perhaps you would have reacted similarly if you faced the same situation.
  • Reflect on times you’ve hurt others and on those who’ve forgiven you.
  • Write in a journal, pray, or use guided meditation — or talk with a person you’ve found to be wise and compassionate, such as a spiritual leader, a mental health provider, or an impartial loved one or friend.
  • Be aware that forgiveness is a process, and even small hurts may need to be revisited and forgiven over and over again”

(Source: mayoclinic.org)

There are many more studies out there like this one, you don’t have to look very far at all on Google.

The ill-effects of carrying around bad vibes and sprinkling negativity all over the place don’t sound like much fun at all.

Do you know what does sound like fun?

Letting shit go and simply enjoying life.

Free your soul, because harboring negativity will not solve anything.

Life happens, shit happens, people come and go.

In the grand scheme of things, most of what is bothering you won’t really matter one day.

Don’t let it tear you down.

If you notice negative feelings surfacing- Pause. Take a deep breath, observe these feelings, be with them for a moment, take notice where they may be coming from, and then LET THAT SHIT GO.