Did you know that a bitter person is not necessarily someone who has experienced more negativity in their life? Instead, a bitter person is someone who clings to this negativity. If this is you, how can you stop being bitter?
Bitterness can have a detrimental impact on our physical and mental health, our relationships, and even our mortality. We can choose to shrivel up into a ball and allow bitterness to pickle us. Or we can use some useful tricks and tips to escape the clutches of bitterness, and live a life of openness, joy, curiosity, and positive energy.
To be human is to experience disappointment and upset. But it is crucial to rise up and not wallow in bitterness. In this article, I'll discuss how to stop being bitter and live a happier life.
What is bitterness?
Bitterness is best defined as a mix between sadness and anger. People who suffer from bitterness often pick at old wounds, preventing them from healing.
Being bitter does not make someone a bad person, but it can make them exhausting and difficult to be around. Ultimately, there is nothing to gain from being bitter and everything to gain from not being bitter.
10 signs to spot bitterness in someone
Bitterness looks different for everyone, but there are some easy ways to spot bitterness in ourselves and others. Here are 10 different signs which indicate if someone is harboring bitterness.
- They hold a grudge.
- They complain regularly.
- They don’t recognize the good in their life.
- They wish ill on those who have done them harm.
- They struggle to forgive.
- They experience jealousy.
- They are likely cynical.
- They are quick to appoint blame.
- They see positive people as toxic.
- They make sweeping statements.
What effect does bitterness have on us?
Living in a perpetual state of bitterness is linked with heightened stress levels. And living with heightened stress levels has a significant impact on our physical and psychological health.
Our body is adept at handling bouts of stress. This is normal and natural. However, difficulties arise when these periods of stress are enduring.
Believe it or not, when left unchecked, bitterness can be extremely detrimental to our physical health. It can:
- An increase in cortisol in the body.
- Increase in heart rate and blood pressure.
- Disruption to the digestion system.
And when the bitterness is longstanding the parasympathetic nervous system is often unable to return the body to its natural homeostasis. This can lead to other difficulties including:
- Compromised immune system.
- Pain - headaches, backache, stomach issues.
Which in itself creates a vicious cycle and can add to the list of things to be bitter about.
Luckily, letting go of bitterness has been proven to increase your happiness.
5 ways to stop being bitter
So how do we stop feeding the bitter side of our brains and learn to feed our positive side?
Here are 5 tips to stop being bitter.
1. Change the record
Bitterness feeds on sympathy. This causes us to tell our story over and over. We seek sympathy for our story and need the outside world to respond with a “poor you”, and a “that sounds tough”.
This validates our own bitterness, and as a result, we feel a sense of just in our emotions.
But in essence, this just keeps us trucking forward on the road of bitterness.
Let’s tell different stories. Or even tell the same stories but from a different angle. What are the positives of the stories which have wounded us? What have we learned? How has a partner cheating on us made us a better person? What have we learned since we were fired from our job?
When we perpetually paint the picture of victimhood, we are seen as a victim and treated as a victim. It can be difficult to escape.
2. Own your part
The bitterness bug is full of blame. We do everything possible to attribute our anger and sadness to someone else. After all, it isn’t our fault, right?
But when we start to focus on our own actions and what we would have done differently, we empower ourselves. We learn from our mistakes.
Maybe your partner had an affair. And whilst there is no excuse for this behavior, think about what it was like to be in a relationship with you.
Maybe you don’t hear from your adult daughter much. But what messages did you give her as she was growing up?
You see, there are always two sides to every story and very often the truth is somewhere in the middle. We live with our own version of the truth and it is convenient to ignore our own actions and simply gather evidence as to why life has been awful to us.
When we recognize what we bring to the table in relationships, we start to own our part and appoint less blame. This helps reduce our bitterness.
3. Learn to forgive
Once we have learned to own the part we play in the disappointments in our life, we can learn forgiveness. This can be forgiveness to others who have wronged us or even forgiveness to ourselves as we look back and recognize scenarios we haven’t handled particularly well.
We may also want to seek forgiveness from other people.
An article titled The New Science of Forgiveness suggests that we “often find it easier to stigmatize or denigrate our enemies than to empathize with or forgive them.”
This article goes on to highlight that when we practice forgiveness our physical stress symptoms reduce.
The same article also suggests that people who practice forgiveness benefit from greater satisfaction in all their relationships.
4. Practice mindfulness
By practicing mindfulness, you can take time to settle the mind. This can be through a number of ways including:
- Taking a mindful walk in nature.
- Getting lost in the flow of an activity.
- Embracing yoga.
Diverting the mind to something else and giving the same old story reel a break, is an effective way to reframe our thoughts.
For me, running, writing, creating, coloring and escaping into nature helps calm my mind and invites an inner peace. By doing these things, I can literally feel my body almost breathe a sigh of relief.
5. Live in the moment
The past is over, so let’s stop living in it. Let’s embrace each day with as much gusto as we can.
The old accolade of “once bitten twice shy” causes us to live a very small life. All too often, when we are prone to feelings of bitterness, we keep ourselves protected for fear of being hurt again.
Here are a few things that may help you live in the moment:
- Engage in activities you are passionate about.
- Find new hobbies and interests.
- Read a book and put new ideas in your head.
- Go somewhere you have never been before.
- Get out in nature.
- Be curious.
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It’s not always easy to let go of previous hurts and overcome past experiences. But if we want to truly experience joy and happiness then we must learn to overcome our bitterness. We must learn to allow our wounds to heal. The world is so much prettier when we change the lens through which we look at it.
Do you struggle with feelings of bitterness? Or do you want to share a tip that has helped you get over feeling bitter? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!