“Forgiveness means you shouldn’t develop feelings of revenge. Because revenge harms the other person, therefore it is a form of violence. With violence, there is usually counterviolence. This generates even more violence — the problem never goes away.” – Dalai Lama
Wise words from His Holiness, but hard to live by when someone has done you extreme harm. But spiritually, forgiveness is good for YOU, even if the other party does not appreciate the gesture. However, what it may surprise you to learn is that forgiveness is also beneficial to your physical wellbeing, and that’s not just opinion, it’s actually according to science.
Unresolved conflict, whether it’s a simple squabble with your spouse or long-held animosity toward a family member or acquaintance, can run deeper than you think, and it could be impacting your physical health.
The good news is that forgiveness has been shown to have significant health benefits, including lowering the chance of heart attack, increasing cholesterol levels and sleep, and reducing pain, blood pressure, and anxiety, depression, and stress levels. Furthermore, evidence suggests that as you become older, the forgiveness-health relationship strengthens. Meaning that learning to forgive even the most unpleasant people who have committed the most offensive to you acts may even increase your lifespan.
The Physical Effects of Disappointment and Hurt
According to researchers at John’s Hopkins University, there are significant physical impacts of holding on to the feelings of disappointment, resentment and hurt. Chronic anger triggers a fight-or-flight response, which alters your heart rate, blood pressure, and immunological system.
As a result of these changes, people are more likely to develop depression, heart disease, and diabetes, among other ailments. Forgiveness, on the other hand, reduces stress and improves health.
Can People Learn to Be More Forgiving?
It’s not just about saying the words when it comes to forgiveness. It’s an intentional process in which you choose to let go of bad feelings, whether or not the individual deserves it. You begin to feel empathy, compassion, and sometimes even affection for the person who injured you as you shed your anger, resentment, and hatred.
According to studies, some people are just more forgiving by nature. As a result, they are happier with their life and suffer from less depression, worry, tension, rage, and hostility.
Grudge-holders, on the other hand, are more prone to suffer from severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other health problems. But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of self-training to act in healthy ways. According to a survey conducted by the nonprofit Fetzer Institute, 62 percent of American adults believe they need greater forgiveness in their personal life.
It is possible to choose forgiveness. In doing so, you’ve made the decision to show compassion and empathy to the one who has hurt you. The actions covered below can help you create a more forgiving attitude and improve your mental and physical well-being.
Remember and Reflect
This includes the events occurred, as well as how you reacted, felt, and how the anger and hurt have influenced you in the times since. Forgiving, as the old saying goes, does not mean forgetting, especially if you can learn a lesson.
What you should not so, however, is keep replaying the incident in your head. Acknowledgement does not imply that you should wallow in it. You must acknowledge it and not sweep it under the rug, but dwelling on it is also harmful. Don’t ask ten people what you need to forgive because you’ll get ten different answers, making it difficult to know your own thoughts. Instead, find a specific person to speak with (a therapist, a family member, or a trusted friend) in a private setting if you feel you require an outside opinion.
Try to Empathize
For example, if your spouse grew up in an alcoholic household, his or her fury when you drink too much wine may be more understandable. This is not to say that doing so exclusively on special occasions is wrong – you have the right to do so – but their overreaction is more understandable.
Forgive at the Deepest Level You Can
Simply forgiving someone because you don’t have any other option or because your faith dictates it may be sufficient to achieve healing. However, one study indicated that those whose forgiveness was based in part on the realization that no one is perfect were able to restart a regular relationship with the other party, even if the other party never apologized. Those who just forgave in order to save their relationship ended up with a worse one.
Don’t Have High Expectations
Your connection with the other person may not change as a result of your apology, nor will it elicit an apology from her. You won’t be disappointed if you don’t expect either. Go into this with the attitude that this is for your benefit, not theirs.
When you forgive and let go of resentment, you’re not denying that you’ve been harmed. It’s the exact opposite: you must admit that you have been harmed and that you have the right to feel that way (no guilt needed). You can’t choose to change how you feel. You can’t expect “I’m not furious any longer” to work. However, you can take steps to alter your thinking, which will change your feelings.
Make a Positive Decision
Once you’ve made the decision to forgive someone, follow through with it. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to the person who hurt you, write about your forgiveness in a notebook or tell someone you trust about it.