Letting Go of Resentment: A Key to Better Mental Health
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Ah, resentment. The feeling is not a pleasant one, as it tends to sting all throughout your body. As one of the more complex emotions, there are many ways it can occur and forms it can take. When you think of the word “resentment,” what is the first thing that comes to mind? Rather, who is the first person that comes to mind?
When someone offends us, it’s not easy to shake. Maybe your friend makes backhanded compliments or your partner has a habit of forgetting to do the dishes. Most of us have experienced it before, whether it be toward our partner, sibling, or coworker.
Unfortunately, conflict and strain in our social relationships are part of the human experience.
You may be left with unresolved emotions even if the conflict was a long time ago or if that person isn’t in your life anymore. It could be from a slight comment someone made toward you, or something more serious. As time goes on, these unsettled conflicts build up into a state of resentment.
The problem with resentment is that it inevitably affects your entire mind and body. You are the person holding on to the pain, even long after it happened. The emotions that it brings are no longer serving you and are slowly degenerating your well-being.
You might feel shameful, bitter, or seek revenge because of the rage harbored against that person. When left unprocessed, grudges can present itself in malicious ways.
How exactly does it feel, though? Here are some signs of resentment:
- Consistent feelings of anger or tension about something without knowing exactly why.
- Recurring feelings about the conflict.
- Strain and agitation in relationships.
- Feelings of inadequacy and low self-worth.
The mind itself becomes affected by these recurring emotions. Increased blood pressure, anxiety, and higher heart rate are all ways that the brain translates this hostility. Overall, letting resentment get the best of you is hurting you!
While resentment can damage your health, releasing can improve it. Many studies concluded that forgiveness can foster higher levels of emotional and social well-being. Contrary to the negative feelings that resentment brings, here are positive ones that come from letting go:
- Higher quality in relationships.
- Positive outlook and mood.
- Lower levels of hopelessness.
- Reduced anxiety and depression symptoms.
With reflection and practice, you can let go of resentment. Here are the four ways to learn how to properly take control of these negative emotions and to release them healthily:
1. Acknowledge your emotions.
By accepting the emotions at hand, you are actively admitting to yourself whatever emotion that you are feeling. This allows you to recognize what you are feeling, rather than denying it. Bringing them to the forefront of your mind allows you to accept the emotions for what they are.
Reflect on what happened and what emotions you are feeling rather than reacting to them. It can be helpful to write them down in a journal for you to let it out.
It is also important to validate those emotions. While what you choose to do with your emotions is not always valid, the presence of them is. There is nothing wrong with you for feeling such a way because of what happened. Validating yourself can go a long way in your journey of letting go.
2. Practice self-compassion.
Although feeling angry might make you feel like a bad person, that is not true. Hold a space for yourself and your emotions- they are there for a reason. For whatever reason that is, it is crucial to be kind to yourself and understand that you need love and forgiveness as well.
The emotions you are experiencing are not all your fault. We as humans feel emotions as a part of life. Remind yourself:
- “Everyone has pain. Pain is a normal experience in life.”
Discover what self-love and kindness mean for you. You can try using a guided self-compassion workbook to implement those skills. Positive self-talk is a must, but so is doing kind things for yourself. Maybe it’s planning a fun trip, finding a new book, or doing yoga. Do something kind to yourself every single day!
For many, this may be the hardest part to grasp. Putting yourselves in someone’s shoes can be difficult, especially when it’s someone who deeply hurt you. You are filled with pain and anger toward your offender, so it’s no surprise that you have a hard time forgiving them. How could you possibly empathize with them?
Well, this involves patience and humility. Try to understand that they might have hurt you out of their pain. By shifting your perspective, it guides you to better understand that people do things out of pain. Everyone has wounds, and recognizing this may help you feel less spiteful.
It is a hard thing to do, especially since we have a tendency to be wired to seek vengeance and be spiteful toward those who hurt us. Retaining the wound that another has brought upon you is the easy route. Sometimes, taking the difficult route exposes our stronger selves and further develops our character.
Remember: Forgiving does not mean condoning. Just because you forgive someone, does not mean what they did was okay. It is a common misconception that when you forgive someone, you are allowing them to hurt you again or “get away with it.” In this practice, you are simply understanding them.
4. Foster gratitude.
It can be easy to forget the amazing things you have when you are feeling resentful. Being grateful is immensely impactful when you are undergoing this process. By remembering what you are grateful for, you see how fruitful your life is without bitterness.
The truth is, we all have so much to be grateful for, regardless of what offenses have been made toward us. Continually replacing those negative thoughts with expressing gratitude trains your mind to think more positively.
Create the habit of saying or writing down what you are grateful for, the results can surprise you! You deserve to celebrate yourself.
All in all, letting go of resentment is beneficial for your psychological, mental, and physical health. Regardless of how deep your wound of resentment is, there is hope. It is not an overnight cure, so be patient with yourself as you undergo this journey!
Akers, J. (2020, December 23). 4 powerful tips to reduce resentment and feel happier. Tiny Buddha. https://tinybuddha.com/blog/4-powerful-tips-to-reduce-resentment-and-feel-happier/
Ferguson, S. (2022, October 19). How to practice forgiveness and let go of resentment. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-is-forgiveness
Get help. GoodTherapy. (n.d.). https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/psychpedia/resentment
Ricciardi, E., Rota, G., Sani, L., Gentili, C., Gaglianese, A., Guazzelli, M., & Pietrini, P. (2013, November 19). How the brain heals emotional wounds: The functional neuroanatomy of forgiveness. Frontiers. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00839/full
Sanghvi, A. (2022, March 2). How resentment affects your health and how to forgive. Tiny Buddha. https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-resentment-affects-your-health-and-how-to-forgive
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