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What is the Secret to a Happy Life?

Most people understand that carrying around anger can lead to not only mental health problems like depression, but also chronic health conditions.

Those who are able to forgive others are ultimately far happier in life, and demonstrate fewer symptoms of depression. Forgiveness helps most when you forgive others, and don’t spend time worrying whether or not they forgive you for something.

A recent study conducted at the University of Missouri found that women who forgive others are happier in general. Christine Proulx, Ph.D., a study co-author and associate professor of Human Development and Family Science, stated, “It doesn’t feel good when we perceive that others haven’t forgiven us for something. When we think about forgiveness and characteristics of people who are forgiving—altruistic, compassionate, empathetic—these people forgive others and seem to compensate for the fact that others aren’t forgiving them.”

Proulx continues, “It sounds like moral superiority, but it’s not about being a better person. It’s ‘I know that this hurts because it’s hurting me,’ and those people are more likely to forgive others, which appears to help decrease levels of depression, particularly for women.”

The study found that those who forgave others had a decreased risk of depression, though these same people may have difficulties with self-forgiveness, particularly when they did not perceive that they had been forgiven by others. Those women who do not tend to forgive others and also feel that they are not being forgiven need to develop self-forgiveness, which can provide mental health benefits.

Learning to forgive others tends to be more important for increasing your happiness with life than self-forgiveness, but self-forgiveness is still important for growth and self discovery, according to author Dana Velden, author of Finding Yourself in the Kitchen.

Velden explains her ideas, and why learning self-forgiveness is perhaps easier in the kitchen. “For all my trilling on and on about the pleasures and passions of life in the kitchen, I am also quite aware that the kitchen can be an unforgiving place, where we risk a whole array of mistake-making events every time we enter.” This type of situation leads to many traps where a person can learn to forgive their own mistakes.

“We’re vulnerable when we make mistakes, and we’re vulnerable, too, when we allow intimacy into our lives. When we begin to bring attention and appreciation to our everyday encounters, when we drop some of our defensive posturing and allow the bright simple truths of the moment to step forward, we also encounter who we are in ways that maybe we’ve never touched before.” This experience of intimacy with yourself can be startling for some, but practicing in the kitchen can help you become more comfortable with self-forgiveness.

Says Velden, “The kitchen is a good place to play around with this less-familiar way of being. Kitchens are usually warm and friendly places where the worst that can happen is that you screw up a meal and will have to order in a pizza. (Unless you manage to burn down the house—that might be the worst thing, but let’s agree it’s not likely to happen.) kitchens are a safe place for us to open up and make some beautiful messes and interesting mistakes. So get into the kitchen and practice making mistakes, practice with being vulnerable. Bring in some of that bright light of awareness and let it shine in the dark corners. Allow yourself to be made just a little more whole by what you find there.”

When you start to learn how to forgive yourself, you will become better at forgiving others, and find greater happiness in your life.