With Love and Gratitude

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Four Steps to Unconditional Love via Laughter and Forgiveness

Forgiveness makes for a healthier, happier you.

The world of love is often one of conditions.  If you loved me you would. . . . .In reality, ideal love - love that is unconditional - is one in which you love someone from the heart despite behavior, actions, or even qualities.  But in our world of stress and temptations, unconditional love in and of itself is too difficult unless you add laughter, gratitude, and forgiveness into the mix.

The British Psychological Society says that people who are able to laugh at themselves "tended to have more cheerful, less serious dispositions."  Indeed, choosing love and laughter helps us attract others who are happy and sets the stage for love.

In reporting on an experiment regarding laughter they noted that students were asked to look at photos and their facial reactions were recorded.  To their surprise, students found that the researchers slipped in some photos of the subjects in distorted and unflattering expressions.

Those who were able to genuinely laugh as opposed to those with the plastic smile fared better on the day of testing that looked into an investigation of laughing at yourself.

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How does laughter roll over into forgiveness?

Those who can laugh at themselves are able to brush aside hurt with a sense of compassion or a feeling that tells them, "Is this person really worth my anger?" Keep in mind that those who are consumed with anger oftentimes just hurt themselves.

Katherine Piderman, Ph.D., staff chaplain at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn, points out that in addition to healthier relationships,  some of the benefits of forgiveness include:

  • Less stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression, anxiety and chronic pain
  • Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

Do we really have a choice between love and anger, happiness over hostility, smiles over tears? It seems that the answer is yes. Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness - MayoClinic.com

How can you practice unconditional love?

  • Express joy often, smiles are contagious
  • Look at the positive side of your relationships
  • Be grateful for where you are in life even if it needs to be totally improved. Take a page from "365 Thank Yous"
    Happiness hints that the Fairy Godmother forgot to teach us.
  • When something upsets you, say so, move on, forgive, and let go of the grudge

These steps will trigger feelings of love and happiness.

If you are not yet convinced of the value of happiness, have a look at this study from The European Heart Journal last year that published the findings of Dr. Karina Davidson, of Columbia University Medical Center, and her team. They followed 1,739 people for 10 years participating in the Nova Scotia Health Survey. Their findings: Happier people are less likely to develop heart disease than crabby ones. European Heart Journal

We know from Facebook that happiness spreads  

Facebook has been tracking happiness and found that it spreads more reliably than unhappiness. You are 15 percent more likely to be happy if your direct connection is happy. It seems we might finally be putting to rest the old chestnut "misery loves company."  Have a look around you, if your social circle is not filled with friends who make you laugh, you may find it is time to change friends.

Copyright 2011 Rita Watson/ All Rights Reserved

Rita Watson on Twitter @ LoveColumnist 

Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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