What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness is often misunderstood as condoning the action that caused the hurt. However, forgiveness is not about condoning hurtful behavior; it's about letting go of anger and resentment so that you can move on with your life.
From an emotional standpoint, it can be challenging to forgive someone who has wronged us—but it is essential to remember that forgiveness is a choice, and it is always possible to forgive someone, even if we never forget what they did. At its core, it is a decision to let go of resentment and feelings of revenge. Why? Because holding onto anger and resentment is detrimental to our emotional and physical health. In fact, studies have shown that forgiveness can have powerful effects on our heart health.
The Effects of Forgiveness on the Body
When we choose not to forgive someone, our bodies react negatively. All that anger and resentment takes a toll on our health in various ways. According to the Mayo Clinic®, "Not forgiving can leave you angry and resentful and may cause you to become emotionally and even physically ill. Unforgiveness also damages your relationships." So, what are some specific ways in which unforgiveness can affect our health? Let's take a look.
Forgiveness Relieves Stress
It's no secret that stress is bad for our health — mentally and physically. When we hold onto anger towards someone, that anger creates stress. Studies have shown that people who forgave someone who harmed them had lower levels of stress hormones than those who didn't forgive. Furthermore, holding onto anger has been linked with various health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and more. So if you're looking for ways to reduce stress, forgiveness may be an excellent place to start.
Forgiveness Can Help You Sleep Better
If you're struggling with insomnia or nightmares related to a traumatic event, forgiveness may help you find some relief. Those negative emotions may keep us up at night when we don't forgive someone who hurt us. One study found that people who ignored someone who harmed them were likelier to have peaceful dreams than those who held onto anger and resentment. Those negative emotions can keep us up at night when we don't forgive someone who hurt us. If you find yourself lying awake at night replaying past hurts repeatedly in your head, consider forgiveness as a way to get some peace of mind and much-needed rest.
The Effects of Forgiveness on Heart Rate and HRV
Forgiveness has positively impacted heart rate and heart rate variability (HRV). A healthy heart will have a high HRV, meaning that the time intervals between each heartbeat are varied. A low HRV, on the other hand, indicates that the gaps between heartbeats are more consistent, which is often a sign of poor cardiovascular health. In one study, participants subjected to an interpersonal conflict were asked to either forgive or hold a grudge against the person who had wronged them. The participants who forgave the person who had wronged them showed significantly higher levels of HRV compared to those who held a grudge. Furthermore, the participants who forgave also had lower heart rates than those who didn't forgive.
How to Practice Forgiveness Everyday
Now that we know how beneficial forgiveness can be for our heart health let's discuss some ways to start incorporating it into our daily lives. Here are a few ideas:
- Make a list of people or situations you need to forgive and reflect on why you need to ignore them.
- Write a letter to the person or situation you need to forgive, even if you don't send it.
- Spend some time visualizing and forgiving the person or situation.
- Talk to someone you trust about what you're struggling to forgive and why it's so difficult.
- Seek professional help if you're struggling to forgive someone or something.
The next time you're holding onto anger towards someone who has wronged you, remember the power of forgiveness—not just for them, but for yourself. Step by step, you will see how much your life will improve with the help of this technique. It is suitable for our mental and emotional well-being and physical health, especially heart health.
Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692. Mayo Clinic® is a trademark of the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research