Experience the life changing benefits of practicing forgiveness

Letting go and moving on following an old hurt can be a prescription for good health.

Nearly everyone has experienced a hurt caused by the words or actions of a family member, friend or co-worker. Often, following the hurt, you are left with long lasting feelings of anger, frustration, unbelief, remorse, confusion, feelings of revenge and bitterness. No one likes to experience negative feelings but hurt causes them and chances are that this can and will happen again.

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Buddha once said this and research has shown that it is true. Holding a grudge causes more than just psychological pain. Anger and stress can, and do, cause physical pain for many people.

There are many health benefits from learning to forgive. It is a prescription for your overall health that won’t cost you a thing. An article in the Harvard Women’s Health Watch stated that “forgiving those who hurt you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing.” Numerous studies have shown that learning to forgive can: Lower your blood pressure and heart rate and reduce your anxiety, anger and levels of depression. People who are forgiving often have better relationships with others and feel happier and more hopeful as well.

Some other health benefits of forgiveness include:

Lowers stress: According to a study done by Hope College researchers, one of the benefits of forgiveness is that there is a lower amount of cortisol (a stress hormone) in people when they speak about forgiveness as opposed to when they discuss holding a grudge.

Heart health: Another study showed that people who hold grudges tend to have higher heart rates compared to those who display empathy and forgiveness.

Pain relief: In a study by the Duke University Medical Center, researchers found a relationship between forgiveness and some aspects of living with persistent pain.

Lowers blood pressure: Letting go of anger may lower your blood pressure. Studies have shown that people who forgive show a link to lower blood pressure.

Forgiving someone who has wronged you is not about pretending that the hurt never happened. It is more than accepting a verbal apology. In order to forgive it is necessary to let go of the anger and negative thoughts and forgive within yourself; even if you do not receive an apology. Forgiving is a state of mind. Forgiveness is about making the decision to let go of the resentment and thoughts of getting back at the person as you move ahead with the more positive pieces of your life. In the Michigan State University Extension program, RELAX; Alternatives to Anger participants learn that forgiveness is a choice.

  • Forgiving does not mean forgetting. Your brain does not quit remembering. Instead you choose to move ahead instead of focusing on the past hurt.
  • Forgiving does not mean that you are easy or a pushover. Forgiving puts you in a position of strength where you can hold someone accountable as you take away their ability to hurt you again.
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean that you don’t get angry. You can’t change what happened or what might happen in the future, but you don’t have to suffer forever.
  • Forgiving doesn’t mean reconciliation or making up. It gives you space to make a decision that is the best for you and your family. You are able to decide if you want to solve the issues, walk away or do something else.

Learning to forgive is not easy. It can be especially difficult if the person who has hurt you was a close family member or friend. Holding on to anger can affect your overall health and that of your other relationships. The hot coal that you’ve been holding on to may just be burning more than your hand. Forgive for the good of your own mental, physical and emotional health.

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