Could your physical illnesses be linked to old grudges? Studies show how forgiveness can improve not only your emotional state, but your physical health, too.
Katy Hutchison is a name that is associated with forgiveness and strength. 14 years ago this remarkable woman was given the opportunity to sit face to face with the man who had caused her terrible suffering, and what she did in those moments has made her an example to us all.
Katy sat down with the man who had murdered her husband. Ryan Aldridge had kicked Katy’s husband in the head four times – causing him fatal injuries 6 year prior to the meeting.
But Katy had made the courageous decision to forgive Ryan. Instead of expressing her pain and anger, she gave Ryan a book called “Searching for the Silver Linings”. This move was shocking to many people. But Katy had realised that the only way she and her family could move on with their lives was to let go of the anger and the pain that they felt and forgive Ryan for what he had done.
Katy’s forgiveness theory is not ungrounded.
Psychologist Fred Luskin Ph.D of Sandford University, is the director and co-founder of a study called the Sandford University Forgiveness Project. Luskin maintains that forgiveness can help to heal deep wounds and this can have all kinds of benefits for your physical health.
He also explained that learning to forgive can help to shield you from future hurts when he stated, “Forgiveness is like a muscle: When you practice on smaller things, you gain the skill to deal with bigger ones”.
Women who forgive reap the highest rewards
Although both men and women who forgive lead happier, healthier lives, studies by researchers at the University of Missouri found that older women in particular have benefited from forgiving others, even if they felt that they had not been forgiven.
Whereas men, on the other hand, felt bad if they forgave others but had not been forgiven themselves.
These women who have learned to forgive experience less depression and anxiety than those who can’t let go of old anger. They also enjoy better physical health, which we will look at shortly.
What is forgiveness?
In order to forgive someone you don’t have to accept the things that they have done wrong, or allow them to get away with it. Forgiving doesn’t mean that you think the other person is right, you are not letting them off the hook. You are simply choosing not to live in a state of anger or resentment. You have taken control of your relationship with them.
For some transgressions, especially where the guilty party doesn’t try to change their behaviour or apologise, it may seem impossible to forgive.
In these instances one should remove oneself from the situation (if you haven’t already done so) and try to practice acceptance. It is what it is – now let it go and move forward with your life on your own terms. It means not allowing yourself to be obsessed with the violation, and not allowing it to affect your life.
Psychological benefits of Forgiveness
People who forgive tend to enjoy a number of benefits from their decision to let go of anger and resentment.
- Fewer anger Issues
- Less Anxiety
- Less Stress
- More Hopeful and Positive
- More Confident
- Better Self Esteem
Physical benefits of Forgiveness
Aside from the obviously wonderful emotional benefits above, people who forgive also experience better physical health. It seems as if holding onto anger can cause all kinds of physical sickness, and letting it go can improve your health.
Less Back Pain
Benefits outlined by the Duke Medical Centre through their research suggest that forgiving people suffer less from back pain. Not only that, but people who suffer from back pain who were taught Buddhist Loving Kindness techniques for eight weeks found that their pain got less and less the more they practised the technique.
27% of people taking the Loving Kindness classes experienced fewer headaches.
Less Heart Conditions
Forgiving people were found to bounce back faster from heart strain. Their blood pressure is lower, and spikes in blood pressure during stressful situations return to normal faster. Conversely, the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that people who hold onto old anger and fail to forgive, tend to suffer from higher incidents of heart conditions. They also have lower levels of immunoglobulin – the antibody producing agent in our blood that protects us from colds and flu.
Other Health Benefits of Forgiveness Include:
- Quicker recovery time from illness
- Healthier nervous system
- Healthier Immune system
- Healthier cardiovascular system
How to Forgive – Step by Step
So now that you understand why forgiveness is so important for you, it’s time to try it out. But forgiveness is not always easy. In fact, many people don’t even know where to start because it is not something they are brought up with.
Here is a guide to the basics of forgiveness 101
Look Inwards. You need to take time alone to sit down and think about the root of your anger. Without obsessing over the details, think about what has really made you angry. Analyse how this anger is blocking you from a positive life.
Retell the Story. Look at the story again, but this time tell it in a way that makes you see yourself in a more empowered position. Have you left the situation? If so, that is something empowered that you are doing. Look at the silver linings. How did you grow stronger? What positive things could never have happened if you hadn’t been through what you have?
Learn to Love yourself. Often the person we are most angry with is ourselves for getting into a bad situation in the first place. Remember that by hanging onto anger you are setting yourself up to be part of the viscous cycle – as often abusers were abused themselves. You don’t have to accept their behaviour – but you should realise that it is probably learned behaviour and they are operating at a deficit.
Create a Ritual to let go. It can be the lighting of a candle, or writing a word that represents your pain on a rock and throwing it away. Find your own healthy ritual and create an ending so that you can let go.
Become the Hero in your Story. You can’t change the past and you can’t change other people. What you can do is make up your mind not be the victim and not to be destroyed by bitterness. You must become the hero of your story by rising above it. Celebrate your strength and understanding. Become the change you want to see in the world.
Now do you have some old grudges that you are not letting go? Try telling the person today and see how it can do to your body.
If you are suffering from a weak immune system, always falling sick, experiencing allergies, go to the next page and find out how you can boost your immune system –
About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice. Learn how you can lose weight fast – How to lose weight by adding these alkaline foods.
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