Forgiveness: Unleashing Mental and Physical Well-BeingPublished on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 by
Forgiveness: The Path to Emotional and Physical Well-Being
You Can’t Make Me. This was me about seven years ago. I was firm in my belief that not forgiving was a justifiable act. An abusive marriage and later someone else preying on my children was unforgivable. I felt I had a right to be angry and resentful. It was righteous indignation, and that was something to hold on to.
I didn’t realize what it was doing to me, both mentally and physically. True forgiveness can have a profound impact on our emotional landscape and our health. Let’s explore what it means and how it can elevate our well-being.
Shift Your Perspective
I have found that most have the misconception that forgiveness equals absolution, as though we somehow have the power to absolve others of their wrongs. Forgiveness isn’t about condoning or forgetting the hurt that was caused. It’s not about the person or their harmful actions. It’s about how we are holding on to the impact of those actions on us.
Forgiveness is a conscious decision to let go. Let go of resentment, hate, anger, grudges, and the desire for revenge. When we choose forgiveness, we choose ourselves. We reclaim our emotional autonomy, and we open ourselves up to healing.
Forgiveness is a permission slip to move forward in your own life.
Liberating the Mind
The mental benefits of forgiveness are far-reaching. Carrying resentment and anger exerts a heavy toll on our cognitive well-being. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine found that forgiveness positively correlates with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. Choosing forgiveness allows us to redirect our mental energy towards positive pursuits, enhancing our emotional resilience and overall mental health.
Moreover, the act of forgiving enhances our self-esteem. When we let go, we release the belief that our past grievances define us. Dr. Frederic Luskin, a pioneer in forgiveness research, emphasizes that forgiving oneself and others promotes self-worth, improving self-confidence and self-compassion.
The Connection to Physical Healing
The connection between mental and physical health is undeniable. Scientific research reveals that embracing forgiveness can have a tangible impact on our physical well-being, demonstrating that individuals who engage in forgiveness experience lower heart rates and blood pressure, contributing to improved cardiovascular health.
The immune system also responds favorably to the emotional release that forgiveness offers. The stress and negativity associated with holding grudges release stress hormones that can impact the gut and digestive system and weaken our immune responses. Forgiveness can strengthen immune functioning by reducing the physiological toll of chronic stress, as highlighted in this 2016 study.
Embrace Forgiveness, Embrace Wellness
Forgiveness sets the trajectory for our future well-being; it's an empowering choice that bolsters our mental and physical health. By choosing forgiveness, we break the chains that bind us to emotions that hold us back, enabling us to flourish emotionally, mentally, and physically.
So, the next time you find yourself at a crossroads of resentment and forgiveness, remember forgiveness's vast benefits. It's not just about others; it's about liberating yourself from the weight of bitterness. It is a process to be taken at your own pace, and there’s no wrong way to go about it. Practicing forgiveness is an investment in our well-being that yields exponential dividends, creating a healthier and happier life journey.
I see you, and YOU are beautiful!
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2019). Forgiveness: Your Health Depends on It. Johns Hopkins Medicine. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it
- Lawler, K. A., Younger, J. W., Piferi, R. L., Billington, E., Jobe, R., Edmondson, K., & Jones, W. H. (2003). A change of heart: cardiovascular correlates of forgiveness in response to interpersonal conflict. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 26(5), 373–393. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1025771716686
- Toussaint, L. L., Shields, G. S., & Slavich, G. M. (2016). Forgiveness, Stress, and Health: a 5-Week Dynamic Parallel Process Study. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 50(5), 727–735. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12160-016-9796-6
Deanna Salles-FreemanLife & Health Coach