The Importance of Forgiveness for Your Mental and Emotional Well-Being

Unresolved anger and resentment can have significant ramifications on both your emotional and physical well-being, including an increased risk of heart disease, higher cholesterol levels and poorer sleep quality.

First step to healing after experiencing any form of transgression should be recalling and expressing feelings systematically and objectively, whether through journal writing, prayer or meditation or talking to an impartial loved one or friend.

1. It is a form of self-care

Learning to forgive others and yourself is one of the best forms of self-care you can practice, helping to ease tension, diminish anger and hostility and boost mood while protecting against adverse health outcomes such as high blood pressure or heart disease.

Reducing emotional and mental well-being requires forgiveness; however, its implementation should not be seen as something to rush through or forget about. Instead, forgiving means letting go of anger, hatred and vengeance without trying to excuse or forget anything that has taken place in the past.

One theory of forgiveness is minimal emotionalism, which states that while individuals can experience various negative emotions after experiencing wrong, forgiveness requires us to overcome only a narrow set of those emotions, usually known as hostile retributive emotions. According to this model, forgiving may be seen as an altruistic gift which benefits both victims and perpetrators alike.

2. It is a form of meditation

No matter the source of tension between you and your partner, or with family members, forgiveness can be an active way of letting go of negative feelings and improving your immune system. Chronic anger triggers fight-or-flight responses in your body that affect heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and immune response to bacteria, viruses and toxins; forgiveness helps your immune system stay relaxed to reduce heart disease risk as well as other medical conditions.

Minimal emotionists recognize that people reacting to injustice with many emotions, but claim that forgiveness only requires overcoming certain behaviors, specifically attitudes that could be classified as vindictive or hostile. Such attitudes, they claim, often fall under moral infirmities or vices (Aristotle asserted that people lacked adequate anger could not effectively defend against injustice; Kant suggested it indicated weakness). Such reactions were considered immoral when directed toward God or other transcendent beings.

3. It is a form of communication

Forgiveness involves letting go of anger, hostility and bitterness to restore more positive relationships. The process can also benefit your physical health by decreasing stress hormones and improving heart rate and breathing rates. Resentments harbored may erode precious connections with others as well as alter spiritual beliefs negatively.

Forgiveness requires accepting that the past cannot be changed, even though this may be difficult. Remember to enjoy life even if someone wronged you by creating positive experiences for yourself and experiencing joyous feelings from life’s adventures.

Minimal emotion theorists contend that forgiveness only requires us to overcome one set of negative emotions: those aimed at punishing an offense (Garrard & McNaughton 2002: 44). Such morally motivated forgiveness has been linked with improvements in positive affect, social integration and lower depressive symptoms.

4. It is a form of forgiveness

Forgiveness is a form of unconditional love that can heal both mind and body. It reduces stress levels while creating positive associations and feelings of empathy among its recipients.

Assuming the conventional understanding of forgiveness, forgiveness releases individuals from morally charged anger and self-pity and allows for the restoration of broken relationships caused by wrongdoing (Murphy & Hampton 1988). But this does not entail supporting or condoning wrongdoers’ actions or character traits, which would result in even further conflict (Murphy & Hampton 1988).

Studies have correlated spiritually motivated forgiveness with increased mental wellbeing; however, they employed cross-sectional designs. Additional research is necessary to test whether state levels of forgiveness correlate with health-related outcomes such as stress and disease; researchers suggest using a dynamic state-like process model to investigate these relationships.

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