AUGUST 7TH 2017
With today being the International Day of Forgiveness, we decided to take a look and see what effect forgiveness has on our mental health.
What exactly is forgiveness?
It is a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.
Forgiveness brings the forgiver peace of mind and frees him or her from corrosive anger. While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings. In that way, it empowers you to recognize the pain you suffered without letting that pain define you, enabling you to heal and move on with your life.
What are the health benefits of forgiveness?
Medical researchers have become interested in studying the effects of forgiveness as a healing process. Evidence is mounting that holding onto painful memories and bitterness results in long-term health problems. Forgiveness, on the other hand, offers numerous benefits, including:
- Lower blood pressure
- Reduced stress
- Better anger management skills
- Lowered levels of anxiety
- Healthier relationships
- Greater emotional health and wellbeing
- Improved creativity
Researchers looked at the effects of lifetime stress on a person’s mental health, and how more forgiving people fared compared to people who weren’t so forgiving. To do this, they asked 148 young adults to fill out questionnaires that assessed their levels of lifetime stress, their tendency to forgive and their mental and physical health.
No surprise, people with greater exposure to stress over their lifetimes had worse mental and physical health. But the researchers also discovered that if people were highly forgiving of both themselves and others, that characteristic alone virtually eliminated the connection between stress and mental illness.