Forgiveness: It Is Good for Your Health, But How Do You Do It?

Reviewed Apr 21, 2016

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Summary

Forgiveness:
  • Has health benefits
  • Can be achieved by talking to someone or with meditation

Alison and her boyfriend, Eric, fought a lot. They couldn’t work it out and they broke up. Eric immediately started dating a co-worker whom he had told Alison was “just a friend.” Any time Alison thought about Eric or his new girlfriend, she became angry, sad, and withdrawn. Alison had to decide to forgive Eric. It took work, but for her, and many people who have been hurt, forgiveness was worth it.

Why it’s good to forgive

Holding on to the hurt and anger a person causes is bad for your health. Those feelings can follow you into your new relationships and experiences, stopping you from enjoying them fully. Dwelling on bad feelings and memories can lead to depression and make a person feel like life is meaningless.

However, there are many health benefits to forgiveness: less stress and worry, a healthier heart and lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system and mental state.

There are two types of forgiveness. One is decisional forgiveness or deciding to forgive and letting go of any angry or negative thoughts against the person who hurt you. The other is emotional forgiveness”—replacing those bad feelings with good ones like compassion, sympathy, or understanding.

Deciding to forgive

Emotional forgiveness appears to be better for your health. Before you can achieve it, you must first decide to forgive.

Try to recall the events as matter-of-factly as possible. Write them down or say them out loud. Then try to do the same from the other person’s point of view. Consider what you would have done in her position.

If you are finding it hard to see her side, talk to someone you trust. Maybe a friend, advisor, or spiritual leader. Think about a time you hurt someone else and she forgave you. How did it feel? Could you pass that on?

Declare, either to the person you are talking to or on a note to yourself, that you are forgiving the person.
Commit to the process of forgiving. It is something you will have to work on. The more the person has hurt you, the longer it takes. Saying you forgive him is a first step, but not the only one. Read the note you wrote or ask the person with whom you confided to remind you about your decision.

Focus on healing your emotions

Once you’ve decided to forgive, focus on emotional healing. You can do this with meditation, talk therapy, and self-protection (limiting your exposure to people, places, or things that bring up the bad memories). If, like Alison, you need to spend time with the person, accept that it can feel strange or unpleasant at first. Try short meetings. Take deep breaths. Remind yourself that you forgave her. Eventually, you will be able to move on.

If the situation becomes too unpleasant, leave. Relieve your emotions through healthy activities like exercise or writing. By living your life in a positive way, you have control of it. The person who wronged you doesn’t.

It’s important to remember that forgiveness does not mean the person will change or that you will have the same relationship you had before you were hurt. The goal of forgiveness is for you to have a happier, healthier life.

Resources

Workbooks on forgiveness:
Everett Worthington, Professor of Psychology
Virginia Commonwealth University
www.evworthington-forgiveness.com/diy-workbooks

The Forgiveness Project
http://theforgivenessproject.com/resources/

By Jennifer Brick
Source: Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692?pg=1; Everett Worthington, www.evworthington-forgiveness.com/research/; Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201301/9-steps-forgiveness

Summary

Forgiveness:
  • Has health benefits
  • Can be achieved by talking to someone or with meditation

Alison and her boyfriend, Eric, fought a lot. They couldn’t work it out and they broke up. Eric immediately started dating a co-worker whom he had told Alison was “just a friend.” Any time Alison thought about Eric or his new girlfriend, she became angry, sad, and withdrawn. Alison had to decide to forgive Eric. It took work, but for her, and many people who have been hurt, forgiveness was worth it.

Why it’s good to forgive

Holding on to the hurt and anger a person causes is bad for your health. Those feelings can follow you into your new relationships and experiences, stopping you from enjoying them fully. Dwelling on bad feelings and memories can lead to depression and make a person feel like life is meaningless.

However, there are many health benefits to forgiveness: less stress and worry, a healthier heart and lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system and mental state.

There are two types of forgiveness. One is decisional forgiveness or deciding to forgive and letting go of any angry or negative thoughts against the person who hurt you. The other is emotional forgiveness”—replacing those bad feelings with good ones like compassion, sympathy, or understanding.

Deciding to forgive

Emotional forgiveness appears to be better for your health. Before you can achieve it, you must first decide to forgive.

Try to recall the events as matter-of-factly as possible. Write them down or say them out loud. Then try to do the same from the other person’s point of view. Consider what you would have done in her position.

If you are finding it hard to see her side, talk to someone you trust. Maybe a friend, advisor, or spiritual leader. Think about a time you hurt someone else and she forgave you. How did it feel? Could you pass that on?

Declare, either to the person you are talking to or on a note to yourself, that you are forgiving the person.
Commit to the process of forgiving. It is something you will have to work on. The more the person has hurt you, the longer it takes. Saying you forgive him is a first step, but not the only one. Read the note you wrote or ask the person with whom you confided to remind you about your decision.

Focus on healing your emotions

Once you’ve decided to forgive, focus on emotional healing. You can do this with meditation, talk therapy, and self-protection (limiting your exposure to people, places, or things that bring up the bad memories). If, like Alison, you need to spend time with the person, accept that it can feel strange or unpleasant at first. Try short meetings. Take deep breaths. Remind yourself that you forgave her. Eventually, you will be able to move on.

If the situation becomes too unpleasant, leave. Relieve your emotions through healthy activities like exercise or writing. By living your life in a positive way, you have control of it. The person who wronged you doesn’t.

It’s important to remember that forgiveness does not mean the person will change or that you will have the same relationship you had before you were hurt. The goal of forgiveness is for you to have a happier, healthier life.

Resources

Workbooks on forgiveness:
Everett Worthington, Professor of Psychology
Virginia Commonwealth University
www.evworthington-forgiveness.com/diy-workbooks

The Forgiveness Project
http://theforgivenessproject.com/resources/

By Jennifer Brick
Source: Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692?pg=1; Everett Worthington, www.evworthington-forgiveness.com/research/; Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201301/9-steps-forgiveness

Summary

Forgiveness:
  • Has health benefits
  • Can be achieved by talking to someone or with meditation

Alison and her boyfriend, Eric, fought a lot. They couldn’t work it out and they broke up. Eric immediately started dating a co-worker whom he had told Alison was “just a friend.” Any time Alison thought about Eric or his new girlfriend, she became angry, sad, and withdrawn. Alison had to decide to forgive Eric. It took work, but for her, and many people who have been hurt, forgiveness was worth it.

Why it’s good to forgive

Holding on to the hurt and anger a person causes is bad for your health. Those feelings can follow you into your new relationships and experiences, stopping you from enjoying them fully. Dwelling on bad feelings and memories can lead to depression and make a person feel like life is meaningless.

However, there are many health benefits to forgiveness: less stress and worry, a healthier heart and lower blood pressure, and a stronger immune system and mental state.

There are two types of forgiveness. One is decisional forgiveness or deciding to forgive and letting go of any angry or negative thoughts against the person who hurt you. The other is emotional forgiveness”—replacing those bad feelings with good ones like compassion, sympathy, or understanding.

Deciding to forgive

Emotional forgiveness appears to be better for your health. Before you can achieve it, you must first decide to forgive.

Try to recall the events as matter-of-factly as possible. Write them down or say them out loud. Then try to do the same from the other person’s point of view. Consider what you would have done in her position.

If you are finding it hard to see her side, talk to someone you trust. Maybe a friend, advisor, or spiritual leader. Think about a time you hurt someone else and she forgave you. How did it feel? Could you pass that on?

Declare, either to the person you are talking to or on a note to yourself, that you are forgiving the person.
Commit to the process of forgiving. It is something you will have to work on. The more the person has hurt you, the longer it takes. Saying you forgive him is a first step, but not the only one. Read the note you wrote or ask the person with whom you confided to remind you about your decision.

Focus on healing your emotions

Once you’ve decided to forgive, focus on emotional healing. You can do this with meditation, talk therapy, and self-protection (limiting your exposure to people, places, or things that bring up the bad memories). If, like Alison, you need to spend time with the person, accept that it can feel strange or unpleasant at first. Try short meetings. Take deep breaths. Remind yourself that you forgave her. Eventually, you will be able to move on.

If the situation becomes too unpleasant, leave. Relieve your emotions through healthy activities like exercise or writing. By living your life in a positive way, you have control of it. The person who wronged you doesn’t.

It’s important to remember that forgiveness does not mean the person will change or that you will have the same relationship you had before you were hurt. The goal of forgiveness is for you to have a happier, healthier life.

Resources

Workbooks on forgiveness:
Everett Worthington, Professor of Psychology
Virginia Commonwealth University
www.evworthington-forgiveness.com/diy-workbooks

The Forgiveness Project
http://theforgivenessproject.com/resources/

By Jennifer Brick
Source: Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692?pg=1; Everett Worthington, www.evworthington-forgiveness.com/research/; Psychology Today, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/heart-and-soul-healing/201301/9-steps-forgiveness

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