Do you cart around a gunnysack filled with bitterness, anger, and resentments?
Would your life improve if you dumped the gunnysack?
Research shows that forgiveness can help you achieve lifelong vibrant health and emotional well-being. Learning to forgive others for their real and imagined transgressions can turn your life around.
Recalling angry moments in life can reduce coronary artery circulation in people with coronary artery disease (CAD). A study in Florida showed that CAD patients who learned to forgive through a 10-week interpersonal forgiveness training lowered their risk of diminished blood flow to the heart following anger-inducing events.
A study in Wisconsin found that as forgiveness increased, the number of medically diagnosed chronic health conditions decreased. So did the prevalence of hypertension and heart disease. Hostility (a near-opposite of forgiveness) predicted negative health outcomes. Interestingly, failure to forgive predicted physical health problems better than hostility.
British researchers conducted extensive interviews with 11 adults who practiced forgiveness in response to emotional distresses. Most of the participants linked forgiveness to perceived mental well-being, including reduced negative mood, feeling positive emotions, positive relations with others, spiritual growth, a sense of purpose and meaning in life, and a greater sense of empowerment. Participants linked unforgiveness to greater negative mood, reduced cognitive abilities, and reduced psychological and social growth.
Fred Luskin is the Director and Co-founder of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects. His book, Forgive for Good, provides a readable and helpful account of how you can use forgiveness to get over long-term grievances that sap energy in your life. According to Luskin, forgiveness has several key characteristics, including taking responsibility for how you feel, taking back your power, getting control over your feelings, and improving your mental and physical heath. Forgiveness is a choice that you can make.
Happily, you can learn forgiveness just like any other skill. Just because bad things have happened to you doesn’t mean that you have to dwell on them. Dwelling on the past won’t change it. But you can change how you regard the past and act appropriately in the present.
Luskin offers a number of practical suggestions to help regain control over your feelings. For example, the Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique (PERT) can help you calm down when you feel like you’ve been wronged. The technique include four steps that you can perform in less than one minute: 1) Relax with several deep breaths. 2) Visualize a beautiful scene perhaps in nature or perhaps an elegantly designed building. 3) Imagine warm feelings surrounding your heart. 4) Ask your relaxed and peaceful self what you can do to resolve your difficulty.
Learning to forgive easily and completely promotes emotional your well-being.