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Forgiveness and Health 


Here are four tips which directly link forgiveness with your health. 


Take this quick self-check quiz 

See if you answer “yes” to any of the following questions. If you do, chances are you are holding on to something you need to forgive. The persistent perception of hurt may harm your health and may even negatively impact your life span. Common areas that present opportunity to forgive can include pain around abusive or dysfunctional relationships in childhood, work issues, divorce, and physical abuse. 


Q. 1:  Does the memory of a past event arouse strong negative emotions in you – emotions such as anger, resentment, frustration, hurt, or a sense of unfairness or hopelessness? 

Q. 2:  Do you find yourself unable to turn off angry or painful thoughts once you start having them? 

Q. 3:  Do you find yourself going through the same thought processes over and over again

Q. 4:  Do you find your negative feelings or thoughts about an event intruding on your daily activities and relationships? 


Know how to forgive 

·    Choose to let go of the hurt.  

·    Allow peace to take its place.  

·    Realize that you don’t have to absolve the wrongdoer of responsibility, nor do you have to forgive the crime itself. 

·    Make a decision not to allow past events with negative emotions to take up present space in your head. 

·    Remember that forgiveness sometimes comes more readily when you can identify something that you learned from the event, and some ways in which it made you stronger, wiser, or more compassionate. 

·    Understand that at times forgiving may be difficult, and you may need some help. 


Release the past 

We tend to hold on to negative thoughts even though we know they are causing us pain, depression, and hurt. Letting go of these thoughts and focusing on the good in our lives makes us emotionally healthier, and that often leads to better physical health as well. 


Studies show that forgiveness leads to improvements in the cardiovascular and nervous systems, as well as relaxation and improved emotions. Conversely, studies show that when people actively hold and nurse their grudges, their blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and arterial wall stress increase. Both forgiveness and grudge-holding are states of mind that produce immediate emotional and physical responses in the body. Other studies have shown that the more forgiving people become, the fewer physical symptoms and illnesses they experience. 


Create your own life story 

For an emotionally healthy life span, choose to let go of the hurts that hold you back and look back in gratitude and wonder at the life and body that brought you this far. 


You have but one life to live, so envision a vibrant future filled with possibilities, health, and happiness. By enjoying the present moment – the here and now – you are making the most of your short time on Earth, whatever your longevity may be. 


Closing thought . . . 

Finally, remember that people who forgive report fewer health problems, have fewer physical symptoms of stress, and feel better psychologically and emotionally. People who hold on to blame and anger have a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer, muscle tension, and a depressed immune system. 


Source: Notes excerpted from and based on Kandeel Judge, Maxine Barish-Wreden, and Karen Brees, Secrets of Longevity: Discover the Keys to a Long and Happy Life [“The Complete Idiot’s Guide to . . .” series] (New York: Penguin, 2008), 287-298. 


Photo credit: Intellimon Ltd.


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