BOSTON , MA –This New Year's, an unconventional resolution may be one of the healthiest you can make—learning to forgive more easily. According to an article in the January issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch , forgiving those who hurt you can improve your mental and physical wellbeing. “Five for 2005: Five Reasons to Forgive” also defines what forgiveness is—and is not—and provides an exercise to help you learn how to forgive.
It may come as a surprise that forgiving is a skill you can hone, and that granting forgiveness may actually do more for you than the person you forgive. Harvard Women's Health Watch discusses the following five positive health effects of forgiving that have been scientifically studied:
Reduced stress. Researchers found that mentally nursing a grudge puts your body through the same strains as a major stressful event: Muscles tense, blood pressure rises, and sweating increases.
Better heart health. One study found a link between forgiving someone for a betrayal and improvements in blood pressure and heart rate, and a decreased workload for the heart.
Stronger relationships. A 2004 study showed that women who were able to forgive their spouses and feel benevolent toward them resolved conflicts more effectively.
Reduced pain. A small study on people with chronic back pain found that those who practiced meditation focusing on converting anger to compassion felt less pain and anxiety than those who received regular care.
Greater happiness. When you forgive someone, you make yourself—rather than the person who hurt you—responsible for your happiness. One survey showed that people who talk about forgiveness during psychotherapy sessions experience greater improvements than those who don't.
Also in this month's issue:
Is it better for women past child-bearing age to see a gynecologist or internist?
Understanding your options for anesthesia and what to expect when you go under
Low dose estrogen without a progestin may improve bone density without harming the uterus
Ductal lavage is not a good screening test for breast cancer
A doctor answers: What can I do about cold sores? And, does glucosamine cause diabetes?