Let’s talk about healing this week. Our intrinsic human vulnerability repeatedly puts us in situations from which we need to heal: sometimes it’s physical illness or injury, sometimes it’s emotional trauma, sometimes it’s social anguish, sometimes it’s financial collapse. The landscape of our life journey includes prickly thorns like loss, hurt, struggle, tragedy, failure, violation, despair and disappointment. Often, it’s not about getting over something, it’s about getting past it — gathering the strength and composure to move forward and doing your best to feel as whole as possible again. This is what healing is about, and it takes time, patience and self-love.
There is no magic formula for healing. It’s an individual path that each of us has to find. But there are some strategies and ideas that seem to be helpful in the healing process, and I thought I’d share a few:
1. Keep a journal. Let your feelings and words or drawings flow. It’s an outlet for you to release and work through your thoughts, and you may eventually see little jewels of wisdom or direction emerge. It’s also a way for you to capture and reflect on your growth and progress and log your successes.
2. Be gentle with yourself. Acknowledge your fragility. Give yourself the time you need. Give yourself the space that feels comfortable. Breathe.
3. Find support. Surround yourself with sensitive people who understand your pain. If you don’t have anyone like that in your life, look for a group locally or online. Likely you’re not alone in your struggles, and even just knowing that can be a comfort. There’s no shame in asking for help in your healing. It’s a step that takes courage and strength, and that’s a step forward.
4. Learn to forgive. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting or pardoning a hurtful offense, and it’s more than merely getting rid of the negative. Rather, it means letting go of your hurt and anger, and not making someone endlessly responsible for your emotional well-being. With true forgiveness, you actually move toward positive feelings of goodwill, despite the offender’s hurtful actions.
Research shows that forgiveness has health benefits including high self-esteem, better moods, and happier relationships. It can reduce stress, blood pressure, anger, depression, and hurt, and it can increase optimism, hope, compassion, and physical vitality
Says Fred Luskin, PhD, of the Stanford Forgiveness Projects, “It takes a willingness to practice forgiveness day after day to see its profound benefits to physical and emotional well-being and to our relationships.”
He adds, “Perhaps the most fundamental benefit of forgiveness is that over time it allows us access to the loving emotions that can lie buried beneath grievances and grudges.” Dr. Luskin shares nine steps to forgive for good on his website.
5. Express gratitude. Recognize the blessings and gifts you have in your life and genuinely appreciate them.
6. Look around. Look outside yourself to identify lessons you’ve learned that you can take with you on this journey. Look inside yourself to find your own special strengths and skills that will propel you forward. Look backwards to recall other difficult situations you’ve make it through, recognizing that you are strong and capable. Look ahead and imagine yourself as whole, healed, moving in a positive direction.
7. Spend time in nature. Marvel in the miraculous beauty of the world. Smell, listen, touch. Notice the sky, the weather, the seasons. The vibrance, the nuances, the textures and temperatures.
8. Find creative outlets. Do things you love to do. Savor music, art, crafts, literature, whether it’s creating it yourself or appreciating the work of others.
9. Indulge yourself a little. Treat yourself to some “me” time, whether it’s hiking or biking or yoga or spa time. Whatever feels good to you.
10. Seek spirituality if that’s comfortable. Connecting or reconnecting with your faith can be a powerful part of healing.
11. Allow yourself to laugh and smile. It’s okay, and it has positive health benefits by releasing endorphins, the “feel good” hormones.
One of the most powerful examples of humor in healing goes back to 2001, about three weeks after the 9/11 attacks. The country was mourning and a somber pall was cast over most of our national pastimes. Many tuned in to the 27th season premiere of Saturday Night Live to see how the comedy sketch show was going to handle being funny in the wake of our shared tragedy.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani opened the show flanked by two dozen uniformed NYC firefighters and police officers. The mayor called SNL one of New York’s greatest institutions, and added, “Having our city’s institutions up and running sends a message that New York City is open for business.”
After a solemn performance of “The Boxer” by Paul Simon, Giuliani was joined on stage by SNL’s executive producer, Lorne Michaels.
“Can we be funny?” Michaels asked, to which the mayor responded with perfect timing, “Why start now?” Then Giuliani delivered the show’s famous line: “Live from New York…it’s Saturday night!” The country let out a collective exhale, feeling that we had permission to laugh again — never forgetting what had happened, but starting the healing process of moving on.