Forgiveness: Your health depends on it
Whether it’s a simple argument with your spouse or a long-held resentment toward someone, a family member or friend, unresolved conflict can manifest deeper, and may be affecting your physical health. There is good news: Studies have shown that when you forgive, you will see huge rewards for your health, lowering the risk of heart attack; improving cholesterol levels and sleep; and reducing pain, blood pressure and levels of anxiety, depression and stress. Studies have shown an increase in the forgiveness and health connection as you grow older.
“There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,” says Karen Swartz MD, director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Holding on to resentment puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in an increase in heart rate and blood pressure and a decrease in your immune response. These changes in your health can then increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other negative side-affects to your health. When you choose forgiveness, it begins to calm stress levels, leading to improved health.
Can You Learn to Be More Forgiving?
Forgiveness is not just the act of saying it. It is when you decide to make is a conscious decision to let go of all negative feelings whether the person deserves forgiveness or not. When you begin to let go of the anger and resentment, you begin to experience feelings that are good for your mental health, like empathy, compassion and sometimes even affection for the person who wronged you.
Studies show that some people can naturally forgive easier than others. People that forgive tend to be more satisfied with their lives because they have more peace of mind than those who are holding onto these hostilities in our mind. They tend to have less depression, anxiety, stress, anger and hostility towards others and themselves. People who hang on to grudges, however, are more likely to experience severe depression and post- traumatic stress disorder as well as a host of other health issues. This does not say that they can’t program themselves to act in healthier ways. In fact, over 60 percent of adults say they need more forgiveness in their personal lives.
How do we start to be more forgiving?
It all starts with forgiving ourselves. We tend to be the hardest on ourselves. How do we change the narrative? Sometimes it is as easy as making some simple changes. When we practice self-care, we can then start the process of changing the narrative within us. Once we start to feel more wellness in our lives, we tend to be more at peace. When we have peace of mind, we can then see the things that are holding us back a little more clearly. Find a self-care practice that is based in mindfulness. This can be anything like, meditation, breath work or Yoga. These three practices create a peace of mind that can help us shift from our negative default mode of holding that grudge to continue holding on to resentment. This is only keeping us from our natural birthright of being happy, healthy and strong!
Yours in health
Dan Subramanya de Luis