Can I ask you something?! Well, I’ll do it anyway – have you felt hurt or betrayed; have you ever been so bitter and upset towards a situation or person that you could not imagine forgiving them? Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t have to answer that, because we already know the answer. YES, we live in a cruel world and we’ve all been hurt and betrayed. And, UNFORTUNATELY, the worst thing about this is that you may have even replayed the event(s) over and over in your head.
The experts WARN that you should be very careful, because with each repetition, your feelings intensify and you feel much worse about yourself and about the situation. That’s right, there is evidence to prove that harboring these emotions can negatively impact your health.
Another quick question – what’s forgiveness? Forgiveness (from a clinical perspective) is the process of relinquishing one’s feeling of resentment and thoughts of vengeance. Forgiveness also includes the process of fostering compassion, generosity, and even love towards those who have inflicted pain. We all know that forgiveness is not an easy thing to do. Clinicians will undoubtedly tell you if your wounds are deep and traumas many you will need more time to heal. But, let me tell you something – forgiveness is possible and I believe necessary.
Forgiveness Improves Your Life
I would like to start this with the impact of staying angry, being frustrated or feeling negative about an event. Dr. Steven Standiford, chief of surgery at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, says that holding onto these negative emotions creates a chronic state of anxiety. He says that this “process” produces a predictable excess of adrenaline and cortisol, which deplete the production of natural killer cells. He says that these cells are your protection against cancer. This means that if you refuse to forgive it not only makes you sick but can keep you that way.
STUDY – the researchers evaluated feelings of forgiveness, pessimism, and self-acceptance after taking a course in self-forgiveness, with more than 83 cancer patients. The course taught techniques such as reflection, expressive writing etc. And, guess what – the patients that took the course had statistically significant higher scores for self-forgiveness, acceptance, self-improvement, and lower pessimism scores compared to the control group.
Forgiveness Helps You Feel Better About Yourself
That’s right, forgiveness will help you feel much better about yourself. If you think of an old memory of being mistreated, hurt, or offended you automatically start to feel unwell. The fact is that there are immediate emotional and/or physiological responses that occur when you are having these memories, and these responses include:
- Your blood pressure increases
- Your muscles tighten
- You start to swell
NOTE: these are all signs of stress and anxiety. A recent study has revealed that participants who practice empathy and forgiveness to those who do them wrong have a lowered stress response. To further deepen this point, roughly 1,500 Americans who forgave reported greater satisfaction with their lives, less distress symptoms, less nervousness, and less sadness. You’ll be amazed when we tell you that forgiveness even helps in cases of severe emotional abuse.
Forgiveness vs. Immunity
YES, forgiveness can also improve and super-charge your immune system as well. A recent study assessed 78 medicated HIV patients for feelings, thoughts, and behaviors of forgiveness. Participants who truly forgave had higher percentages of CD4 immune cancer-fighting cells! The improvement of blood pressure and cardiovagal tone is yet another benefit of forgiveness. Researchers have been able to show that forgiveness has a cardio-protective effect on the heart. While anger, is cardio-toxic, which damages the heart muscle. Forgiveness will improve your sleep as well. A recent study has revealed that forgiveness of interpersonal transgressions is related to better sleep. While staying resentful, angry or even keeping hostile feelings around relate to a poorer quality of sleep.