When people wrong you, it is natural to feel angry or hurt. Forgiving them may seem unfair at first, especially if they do not acknowledge what they've done or show any remorse. Over time, however, holding on to grudges against them only hurts you more. There are several good reasons to release hurt feelings.
Better Mental Health
It's common knowledge that anger and hurt are negative emotions. That doesn't automatically make them bad. In fact, in small doses, they can be instructive and helpful. What many people don't realize is the impact that this intense psychological pain can have on your body if you hold on to it.
Holding a grudge can increase anxiety and depression, especially if these are issues you already struggle with. The habit of replaying negative experiences in your brain can exacerbate the effects of panic as if you are reliving the events. It can also make you feel more isolated, which is a common symptom of depression. Forgiveness helps you alleviate some of this tension.
Less Stress on Your Heart
Grudges also tend to bring about physiological responses. The increased heart rate and flush that you experience in the heat of anger or frustration reoccur every time you rehash the experience in your head. This is a natural part of your body's fight-or-flight response, and it affects your whole cardiovascular system. When it is actually saving you from a dangerous situation, it's healthy. If you're constantly feeding yourself into a stress response loop by holding on to bitterness, though, it can put more stress on your heart. Letting go can break the cycle.
Improvement in Immunity
Forgiveness helps you relax, which is essential for renewing your body and mind. The parasympathetic nervous system is activated when you are at rest. It helps the body with digestion, deep breathing and other functions that serve to keep you healthy. These are some of the functions that are necessary for having a strong immune system.
When you forgive someone and release the stress that your negative feelings caused, your parasympathetic nervous system goes to work. Your body is no longer having to fight off an invisible foe, so it is free to put its energy toward rejuvenation. You are less likely to succumb to illnesses that are going around if you are at peace with yourself and others.
Ability To Focus on What Matters
Taking your attention away from bad things that have happened can help you focus on the good. There are several things you can do to free yourself from the hold hurt feelings can have on you:
- Accept your feelings so you can move past them.
- Set clear boundaries, particularly if the person who hurt you is still in your life.
- Make a list of the things and people for whom you are grateful.
- Fight the urge to rant about the situation to friends or family.
- Enlist the help of a counselor or therapist to walk you through forgiveness.
Once you can get past the grudge you're holding, you are likely to experience a refreshing sense of freedom. The release gives you time back to focus on what inspires you and the people who add to your happiness.
Forgiveness is not often easy, especially if you don't feel like the other person has earned it. Don't you deserve it, though? You have the right to experience joy and be unencumbered by the stress of holding on to past hurts. When you let go of a grudge, the person you are helping the most is yourself. The more you practice forgiveness, the healthier and happier you are likely to be.