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The Healing Power of Forgiveness

Sep 20, 2007
When we look after our health, we think about eating healthy foods, exercising, and getting regular checkups. But our emotions can affect our health, too. If you have been holding a grudge or two, it may be hurting you physically as well as psychologically. The cure? Forgiveness. Recent studies have shown that practicing forgiveness can have a positive effect on our health.

Health benefits

According to a study at Duke University Medical Center, people who have forgiven others experience lower levels of physical pain, anger, and depression. In the study, people with chronic back pain felt less pain and anxiety when they used meditation to help them forgive and release their anger.

Forgiveness may also benefit your heart. Researchers at the University of Tennessee have found a connection between being forgiving and blood pressure and stress. According to the study, people who forgave more easily had a lower resting blood pressure and heart rate than people who did not forgive as easily. In addition, people who were rated as "high forgivers" were more likely to work harder to resolve conflict. As a result, they also tended to have stronger relationships.

Forgiveness is also healing. Research suggests that the ability to forgive yourself and others can boost your immune system and help you to recover more quickly from illness or disease.

Holding a grudge is like putting your body through a major stressful event. Your blood pressure rises, your muscles tense, and you sweat more. When you forgive the grudge, your body can relax and release the stress.

An antidote to anger

Forgiveness may be so healing because it is an antidote to anger, which has been shown to be detrimental to your health. A study in a recent issue of Neurology has found that anger and negative emotions can precede a stroke. In the study, people who had strokes were more likely to experience these feelings in the two hours prior to the stroke.

In addition to the physical benefits, letting go of anger by practicing forgiveness can enrich your relationships and ultimately help you to be a happier person.

Methods of forgiving

Forgiveness can seem very difficult, but researchers have found that it is a skill that can be learned. There are many methods you can try, including meditation, visualization, and simply talking it out with a trusted friend.

When the going gets tough, be your own coach, and pump yourself up. Remind yourself how forgiveness will help you:

1. We tend to equate forgiveness with weakness, but in reality, it takes a strong person to forgive.
2. When you hold a grudge, you are making the other person responsible for your happiness and allowing your anger toward them to control you. But when you forgive someone, you take responsibility for your own happiness and are no longer controlled by your anger.
3. Forgiveness is a gift to the other person, but also to yourself, because you free yourself from the anger.
4. Forgiveness is the freedom to move on.

Forgiveness is the economy of the heart... forgiveness saves the expense of anger, the cost of hatred, the waste of spirits (Hannah More).
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