COLUMBIA, Mo. – Holding a grudge or feeling guilty can keep you from enjoying all that life has to offer.

“Guilt is something we impose on ourselves,” said Vera Massey, nutrition and health education specialist for University of Missouri Extension. “We get into the ‘I should have done that,’ and the ‘shoulds’ keep us tethered to the past.”

Carrying guilt can harm your mental and physical health, and drain your joy and happiness. Massey says to break free of the shackles of guilt you need to forgive yourself.

“Some people find it very powerful to forgive and let go,” Massey said. “It’s a way for you to live a healthier and happier life.”

Just like guilt, grudges keep you from moving on. It’s human nature to want to strike back at someone who harms us. We’ve been hurt and we want to settle the score. Trouble is, grudges sap energy and keep us anchored to the past. Learning to forgive can set you free.

“When you forgive someone, it doesn’t mean that what happened is OK with you,” Massey said. “It’s that you’re going to be OK and you’re going to move on.”

Massey is co-creator of the MU Extension’ Taking Care of You program. She says that during the program, participants talk about challenges that can happen in life that are beyond a person’s control. Too often, we will hang on to anger, guilt or the lack of forgiveness in the aftermath of a struggle.

The program teaches participants to use a method called recasting, a set of strategies for looking at challenges in a different way.

“It doesn’t mean we turn a lemon into lemonade, because it may have been some really nasty, tough stuff,” Massey said. “In order to move beyond strife, you give yourself permission to feel the negative feelings associated with a challenge.”

Coming to terms with your feelings about adversity can give you the opportunity for change and renewal, Massey said.

If you’re interested in the Taking Care of You program, contact your local MU Extension center to find a program near you.