It’s normal to feel strong emotions such as anger or bitterness after a difficult interaction or a life-changing event. However, holding on to negative emotions for a long time causes chronic stress. This takes a toll on the body and may contribute to mental and physical health problems. On the other hand, finding a path to forgiveness for yourself and others can lead to long-term improvement in both mental and physical health. Here are seven things to know about the benefits of forgiveness and how to get started.
1. Forgiveness May Benefit Your Heart Health
Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure and negatively affect your cardiovascular health. However, taking an active role in forgiveness can lower blood pressure and heart rate, benefiting heart health.
People who practice forgiveness also tend to follow healthcare recommendations more closely than those who don’t, leading to improved health.
2. Forgiveness Can Lead to a Better Night’s Sleep
Replaying intense situations or getting stuck in negative feelings can cause sleep problems. Practicing forgiveness can decrease stress and quiet upsetting thoughts, improving sleep. Better sleep is connected to better overall health.
3. Forgiveness Can Lessen Anxiety and Depression
Additional benefits include encouraging learning healthy ways to deal with stress and decreasing use of nicotine and other substances that can be abused when used a coping mechanism. These changes can improve physical health as well.
4. Forgiveness May Boost Your Immune System
High stress levels can negatively affect hormones that keep us healthy. Forgiveness can boost the production of cells that fight off bacteria and viruses.
5. You Don’t Need to Forget to Forgive
Forgiveness isn’t the same thing as forgetting harmful actions or excusing poor choices. In fact, recognizing that someone did something wrong and remembering how it hurt can be the first steps to forgiveness.
The process of forgiving is about gaining a new perspective on what happened, building empathy for those involved and recognizing that you have control over how you respond now.
6. Forgiveness Takes Time
Forgiveness doesn’t happen in an instant. It can be a slow process of recognizing and processing painful situations and feelings.
Many people need support to forgive themselves or others. If you struggle with forgiveness, participating in a support group or talking with a mental health professional can help.
Be gentle with yourself if you feel like you’ve had a setback. Forgiveness is a practice that takes time to learn. The more you work at it, the easier it will become.
7. It’s Never Too Late to Forgive
Forgiveness can happen at any age and any stage of life. In fact, people aged 45 or older may experience more health benefits from forgiveness than do younger people.
Talk to a Professional
Want to learn more about how chronic stress affects your health and what you can do about it? Make an appointment at a primary care provider office at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.