“…The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an Attribute of the Strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Learning the art of forgiveness can not only make our experience of life more pleasant and harmonious, it can also make each of us healthier” said Paula Curtiss, Director for Healing Hands School of Holistic Health. “The results of multiple long-term studies on the physiological impacts of forgiveness point to one inarguable truth: forgiving those who we perceive have wronged us benefits our health in many important ways,” she added.
Forgiveness is defined as a process in which one makes the choice to give up feelings of resentment or revenge towards someone they feel has wronged them. Forgiveness does not mean that the offended party must condone the act or behavior, excuse the offense, or forget that the offense occurred. Instead, forgiveness is a process.
To truly forgive another, it’s important to re-frame the experience and replace negative thoughts associated with the offense with more positive thoughts. These more positive thoughts will evoke more positive feelings, and feelings are chemicals. Good feelings evoke happy brain chemistry which contributes to good health, while negative feelings evoke stressful brain chemistry which negatively impacts one’s health.
In one ground-breaking study called: “Forgive to Live,” Luther College psychologist, Loren Toussaint and colleagues investigated the health benefits of forgiveness among 1500 adults age 66 and older. The study showed that individuals who would only forgive others on conditional terms, died earlier than those who scored low on this measure. The reason – individuals who made conditional demands for forgiveness continued to harbor negative feelings such as resentment, anger, hostility, victimization, or the anxious anticipation of an apology that may or may never come. By ruminating on negative feelings of un-forgiveness over long periods of time, individuals experience higher levels of stress, hostility, and anxiety which negatively impacts their heart and immune system health.
In contrast, individuals who forgave their wrong-doer without requiring an apology were more able to begin the healing process and move forward with their lives. In addition these individuals experienced renewed hope, feelings of empowerment, higher self-esteem, greater psychological and Spiritual well-being, and healthier relationships in general.
Other medical studies have found that people who have forgiven others for a major transgression have lower blood pressure, heart rates and other stress related symptoms compared to those who have not. In one study held at New York University using cardiac patients, researchers found that higher levels of forgiveness were associated with lower levels of perceived stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as lower levels of “LDL” and “HDL” cholesterols.
Another study at the Virginia Commonwealth University found that one’s motives for forgiveness also has an effect on the benefits received. The study found that individuals with altruistic motives behind their forgiveness reaped far more physical, emotional and Spiritual rewards. This was likely due to the fact that they’re the ones who managed to truly forgive.
In 2005 researchers at East Carolina University studied the effects of hostility and forgiveness on the body’s systems. This study found that forgiving someone will make you sleep better at night, reduce blood pressure and other stress reactions in the body. In contrast, they found that holding on to a grudge or resentment is likely to lead to insomnia, hypertension and coronary heart disease.
Doctors and other health-care providers are full of anecdotal stories about patients who let go of resentment and got off of various medications such as antidepressants, blood pressure meds and sleeping pills. The moral to this story – holding a grudge can literally make you sick! So, give yourself the gift of forgiveness. Let go of any anger and resentment you’re holding and know that your reward will be a greater sense of peace, wellbeing and a longer, more enjoyable life experience.
Healing Hands School of Holistic Health (HHSHH) has been serving residents through two regional campuses for over 24 years. With more than 80 Holistic Health courses and two Certification Programs to offer, HHSHH is considered a trail-blazer for Holistic Health education in Southern California. To date, HHSHH has prepared more than 6,500 students for rewarding careers in Massage Therapy and Holistic Health. To find out more about the educational programs or financial aid available at HHSHH please visit us on-line at www.HealingHandsSchool.com or call us at (949) 305-2722 in Laguna Hills, or (760) 746-9364 in Escondido.
Journal of Bio-behavioral Sciences – Benefits of Forgiveness
University of California at San Diego – www.ucsd.edu/learn/research/
Duke University Researchers – research.duke.edu/
The Journal of Behavioral Medicine – www.sbm.org › Publications
East Carolina University – www.ecu.edu/
Virginia Commonwealth University Medical School- www.medschool.vcu.edu
New York University- www.nyu.edu/