How Acceptance Can Benefit Your Health
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash
Written by: Sabrina Sourjah
Date Updated: 7/14/2021
Reviewed by: Patrick D. Randolph, Ph.D.
Acceptance is the last stage of grief that we go through after denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. It is the way to reclaim our lives after a devastating loss.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.
~ The Serenity Prayer
We are born with no choice in our parents, race, skin color, and nationality. So, it is impossible to change these uncontrollable factors.
What Is Acceptance?
In psychology, acceptance is defined as “a person’s assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition (often a negative or uncomfortable situation) without attempting to change it or protest it.”
As per this definition, acceptance tunes you into reality, and you lose the desire to struggle against the situation.
Types of Acceptance
- Conditional Acceptance: This is when you accept someone if they behave in a certain way or give you something.
- Expressed Acceptance: This type of acceptance is clearly expressed. For example, when one says yes to a proposal.
- Implied Acceptance: Although not explicitly expressed, this type of acceptance is shown by other actions that imply acceptance.
What Can You Choose to Accept?
Here are some things that you can accept in your life.
- Yourself — Accept yourself as you are in this moment with all your quirks and “weaknesses.”
- Family and friends — No one is perfect, not even your loved ones. Some of them may have certain qualities that you don’t like. But they deserve your unconditional acceptance as long as their behavior is not impacting you negatively.
- Losing people you love — This is a hard one. Losing a parent, spouse, or friend can feel hopeless. But it is the nature of life. One day, we will all leave this earth.
- Economic downturns — Global economies have cyclical patterns: expansions, peaks, contractions, and troughs. We can’t control these patterns. So, it’s best to expect and accept them.
- Pandemics and other outbreaks — Although we can protect ourselves and follow guidelines during major outbreaks, we have no control over how fast a pandemic spread.
- The changing world — This world is always changing. New technology is introduced frequently, and people change and grow each day.
- Losing in a game — Winning and losing is a way of life. So, when your favorite team loses in the playoffs or your kid’s soccer team doesn’t make it to the finals, it is best to accept the judge’s final verdict.
Benefits of Acceptance
1. Overall Health
When you accept life as is, you will have peace of mind. Research suggests that there is a “significant correlation between inner peace and physical health.”
Additionally, alcohol or substance addictions can negatively impact our overall health. In the 12-step treatment of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the foundational steps is to accept our current “powerlessness over alcohol.” This shows that even to get treatment and recover, acceptance is key.
2. Surgery Outcomes
Post-surgery, your immunity system needs to function well to heal from surgical wounds. When you have peace of mind through acceptance, you will be able to overcome stressors that adversely impact your immunity.
3. Mental Health
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a type of therapy that “encourages people to embrace their thoughts and feelings rather than fighting or feeling guilty for them.” ACT has proven to be a successful treatment for anxiety disorders, depression, OCD, stress, and psychotic disorders.
Acceptance can lead to an optimistic outlook on life. According to a study, optimistic individuals have 11 to 15% longer lifespans and can live up to 85 years or beyond.
5. Life Satisfaction
When you accept negative events and challenges, you recover from them sooner. You learn to continue with life and make the best of it. With its favorable impacts on physical health, mental health, and longevity, acceptance is bound to increase your life satisfaction as well.
Some consider acceptance to be a passive form of resignation and a way of giving up. But that’s not true because certain situations are beyond our control and accepting them as such will give us inner peace.
For situations that we need to recover from, acceptance is still the first step to treatment. If you don’t accept that you have a problem, you’re not going to be able to find a solution.