November is National Family Caregiver month and a great time for expressing gratitude and thanks for family caregivers as we approached the Thanksgiving holiday. It is also a wonderful time to talk about this month’s focus: releasing and forgiving. Last month’s focus was about where we were giving power to a response, especially when it came to self-care. However, if we take that focus of “giving power” and apply it to this month’s focus of releasing and forgiving, we can begin to live more in the present moment, instead of in the past.

This seems like a powerful opening to this month’s blog post. Dr. Asa Don Brown, an author, speaker, and clinician once said, “a life lived without forgiveness is a life lived in the past.” But how do you forgive when the hurt is real and deep?

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Forgiving Ourselves First

To start, it is important to forgive ourselves first. As family caregivers, we take on so much in providing care and set a high standard for ourselves. When something doesn’t go right, we tend to look back at the should haves, could haves and would haves.

We were not born caregivers for our loved ones, but yet, we dive right in and begin the journey without much instruction; mistakes are inevitable. By definition, mistakes are an action, decision, or judgment that produces an unwanted or unintentional result, so think about where you are giving power and cut yourself a break.

Also, remember that accepting wrongdoing doesn’t mean you agree with or like what happened, it just means that you accept it cannot be undone.

It is normal that we give so much power to negative thoughts and situations; we review and relive the hurt over and over. Our brain reacts to emotional pain in the same way it reacts to physical pain. With pain, the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex become activated and we need to feel the emotion in our body to know how to remove it. Releasing emotional pain and expressing forgiveness takes time and involves a direct action.

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Giving Power to Positive Thoughts  

Because our brains become activated, we have to get good at giving power to regaining control of our thoughts. We can achieve that by using tools to help focus on something more positive, such as kindness and gratitude.

A Positive Psychology article by Dr Jeremy Sutton, includes forgiveness tools, such as changing how you think about grievances. The article continues with other tools, such as thankful breathing, experiencing past feelings of love, and a technique called positive emotion refocusing. In the end, it is your decision to let go of any “stinkin’ thinkin’.” There are many benefits to releasing and forgiving. For one, a reduction in stress, anger, and pain, which in turn, increases our immunity, compassion, and hope, to name a few. Consider taking some time to read the article quoted in the blog and consider Hope Grows as your source to a healthier you.

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