You don’t need anyone to tell you that holding a grudge is not advisable, but sometimes we’re so angry at a friend, coworker, family member, or significant other that it’s all we know how to do. But is not forgiving someone worth the pain, aggravation, and negativity? Probably not and it often comes at a price.
In fact, science actually has a ton of reasons why you may want to consider forgiving someone instead of loathing every bone in their body — your health may even depend on it. Aside from ruining your relationship and attitude, there are physical risks to holding grudges. According to WebMD, when people hold grudges, they suffer from higher heart rates, blood pressure, facial muscle tension, and even sweat more versus when they forgave. Just look at the rocky relationship between Damon and Stefan on The Vampire Diaries. Their moods, their mental health, their relationships — everything shifted after they’ve let go off past grievances and forgiven each another.
And science agrees, life is just so much better when you forgive. From lower blood pressure to a better night’s sleep, here’s why it’s probably not late to accept someone’s sorry.
1. It improves your relationships.
If you haven’t forgiven a friend for lying to you but you continue to answer their texts and see them , let’s face it — your relationship is not a healthy one. MayoClinic says forgiveness promotes healthy relationships, and it makes sense. How you can you trust or be totally honest with someone you have unresolved issues with?
Additionally, studies show that forgiveness makes for a strong romantic relationship — and it may be the best way (versus time and commitment) to overcoming cheating.
2. It relieves stress.
According to MayoClinic, when you’re holding a grudge, you’re so wrapped up in the past that you can’t enjoy the present, and you may even become depressed or anxious! Is the wrongdoing you’re holding a grudge over really worth all of that? Forgiving someone is a way to relieve stress and anxiety, and it’s basically like taking a deep breath that lasts for the rest of your friendship — or until the next tiff.
3. It chases away any feelings of resentment and hostility.
Being unforgiving also means you’ll bring anger and bitterness into your relationships and new experiences, says MayoClinic. So in forgiving someone, you’re freeing yourself from these toxic feelings.
4. It lowers your blood pressure.
Forgiveness is good for the heart…literally. According to the Huffington Post, in a 2011 study of married couples, when the victim of a situation forgave their spouse, they both had lowered blood pressure. Moreover, Kathleen Lawler, while working as a researcher in the psychology department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, studied the effects of both hostility and forgiveness on the body’s systems and discovered that it had a considerable impact on overall heart health. (Forgiveness is truly a change of heart.)
5. It helps you sleep better.
One major health benefit of forgiving someone? Better sleep! A 2005 Journal of Behavioral Medicine study found that forgiveness is linked to a ton of health benefits — including sleep quality.
6. It’s good for your immune system.
Not only are you stressing less, but your body is stronger because of forgiveness. According to the Huffington Post, in a study where people with HIV practiced genuine forgiveness toward someone who’d hurt them had higher CD4 cell percentages, which are good for their immune status. To add to those findings, Psychology Today reports that “higher reported levels of forgiveness were associated with lower white blood cell count [an integral part of fighting off diseases and infections] and hematocrit levels.”
7. It gives you a boost in term of physical health.
We know we’re better off mentally when we’re not holding negative feelings about someone inside, but did you know that you’re physically better off too? It may be what protects your body against the harmful effects of stress. According to a study in the Journal of Health Psychology, having the forgiveness trait indicates that someone is mentally and physically healthy, reports Huffington Post. Additionally, based on academic research conducted by Robert Enright, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, forgiveness often correlates with an impressive range of physical benefits, including improved mortality rates.
8. You establish a sense of inner peace.
Is forgiveness easy? Not really. Sometimes it’s hard to accept an apology from someone who’s done something inexcusable, who’s betrayed us and hurt us on a deep level. It takes time, patience, and a lot of meditation to reach such an enlightened state. But the moment you decide to relinquish any lingering resentment, you’ll feel an instant weight lift off your soul; your mind will clear up immediately. Even if the other person is in the wrong, at least you’re strong enough to show compassion and maturity in the situation. Plus, it does wonders for your emotional health: According to Psychology Today, researchers discovered decreased depression, anxiety, and anger levels among people who chose forgiveness over vengeance.
On that note, what’s your take on this tough subject — is it easier to forgive people than it is to remain angry at them? Or is it pretty much the hardest thing you’ll ever have to do? Tell us in a comment!