If you’ve ever had any spiritual or religious training, then I’m sure you’ve heard about and talked about forgiveness. I know that holding a grudge against somebody and not forgiving them for a wrong they’ve done can eat you up inside. When we learn to forgive another person, we can then start to heal ourselves. There’s a lot of talk in the fitness industry about health coaching and behavioral changing because eating well, sleeping well, and exercising alone will not keep you well. We have to train our inner spiritual person and not just our physical and intellectual person.

Senior man placing hand on shoulder of senior woman asking for forgivenessThe latest Fitness Journal from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) had an article that talked about forgiveness. It talked about how the act of forgiveness can affect our health. Studies have shown that practicing forgiveness is good therapy. Forgiveness is associated with better physical health and predictive of fewer physical health symptoms (Lawler et al. 2005; Seawell, Toussaint & Cheadle 2014). Forgiveness leads to healthier cardiovascular responses to stress and lower rates of cardiovascular disease (Friedberg, Suchday & Shelov 2007; Waltman et al. 2009). It takes courage to ask for forgiveness, and you need willingness in your heart if you’re going to choose to forgive somebody.
Here’s a nine-step process that you can use to try forgiveness (Frederic Luskin, PhD, director of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects).

1.) First, be aware of your feelings - Understand exactly how you feel about what happened and be able to speak what part of the situation is not okay. Tell a few trusted people about your experience.

2.) Know that forgiveness is for your own sake - Make a commitment to yourself to do what you have to do to feel better.

3.) Do not expect reconciliation - Understand that forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean you condone their actions against you.

4.) Recognize how the event is affecting you in the present - Try to recognize you’re hurt and what offended you now, not 30 minutes or five years ago.

5.) Learn to activate the relaxation response - Try the box breathing technique when you start to feel upset (inhale through your nose and count to four, hold your breath with a four-count, exhale out of your mouth with a four-count, and hold your breath with a four-count).

6.) Concentrate on what you can control - Stop expecting things from other people that they choose not to give you.

7.) Move on - Don’t let the experience that hurt you get in the way of you accomplishing your positive goals.

8.) Be the agent of change in your life - Forgiveness is about personal strength, so look for the love, beauty, and kindness around you.

9.) Change the story - Remind yourself of how important it is to forgive.

You could have the best lap swim, treadmill walk, water exercise class, game of golf, or muscle-strengthening session that you’ve ever had, but what good is it if you don’t feel well on the inside? Don’t forget to train your inner spiritual person. Here’s to your great health.

Jonathan Souder is the Fitness Director at Manor House, an Acts Retirement-Life Community in Seaford, Delaware. This column appeared in the March 12, 2020 edition of the Seaford Star.